Wycombe Wanderers boss Gareth Ainsworth anticipating ‘different type of challenge’ against managerless Hartlepool United

Wycombe Wanderers manager Gareth Ainsworth admits ‘it’s great to see Hartlepool United back in the EFL’ ahead of Saturday’s FA Cup first round tie at Victoria Park (3pm kick-off).

The Chairboys have made the 260-mile trip to the North East looking to bounce back from a 4-1 defeat against Ipswich Town on Tuesday night.

They face a Pools side currently under the interim management of Antony Sweeney following Dave Challinor’s departure for Stockport County earlier this week.

Wycombe, who currently sit fourth in League One, are the favourites to progress to the second round – but in order to do so, they will have to beat a Pools side who currently boast the best home record in the country.

Gareth Ainsworth, Head Coach of Wycombe Wanderers interacts with the crowd following the Carabao Cup Third Round match between Manchester City and Wycombe Wanderers F.C. at Etihad Stadium on September 21, 2021 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)

United have won 22 of their last 26 matches at Victoria Park in all competitions with only League One Crewe Alexandra and National League Maidenhead United tasting victory at The Vic in 2021.

“Saturday is a different type of challenge but one we’re looking forward to,” Ainsworth told the Wycombe club website.

“We’ve had some good battles with Hartlepool down the years and it’s great to see them back in the EFL, and going strong this season.

“They’re a bit of an unknown quantity because of their change of manager recently, but we’ll be doing our homework as usual and going there looking to get back to winning ways and progressing to the second round.

"I’ll never be one to underestimate the FA Cup or say it doesn’t matter because it’s a great competition and we’re a club that wants to win every time we cross the white line.

"I know it’s another long trip for our fans and hopefully we can put on a performance, get the win and then look forward to the second round draw and the home games that we’ve got coming up.”

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Sweeney has previous managerial experience with Pools in the FA Cup having taken charge as interim boss for the fourth qualifying round win over Brackley Town in 2019.

United went on to reach the third round of the competition that season where they were beaten 4-1 at Oxford United.

But Sweeney is hoping to continue Pools’ remarkable home form and his solid record as caretaker manager as the search for Dave Challinor’s replacement continues.

The 38-year-old has been studying Wycombe and preparing his side for what is likely to be a difficult challenge against higher level opposition.

“I expect them to come at us, press high and I don’t envisage they’ll make many changes,” Sweeney said.

“I think even if they did make changes they still play in a way that has been really successful for them.

"Even though they were relegated from the Championship on the last day, that for their football club was a massive achievement to be competitive at that level.

"I don’t see why they’ll change their style in any way, they’ll come at us, press high and play for set-plays with some really powerful players.

"So take away any sort of tactical element, formation, style of play, we’re going to have to go man for man against them and win that battle and hopefully impose our style on the game.”

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