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Cooper sees plenty of room for improvement
NINE games in and Hartlepool United are set to reach their first League Two benchmark.
In the opening games of the season, managers generally state that the league table takes shape after ten games.
As they head to Mansfield today, Pools have just six points and sit third bottom in the league ladder.
It’s hardly the ideal start to life as a manager for Cooper.
“Everyone says ten games and the table takes shape,’’ he said. "We are at Sheffield United next week and their manager David Weir, is also in the infancy of a job, and he will look at ten games and say where are we?
“After this week we are at ten games but I still feel we have plenty to give and are still trying to strengthen what we have got.’’
Pools have just one win to their name – over bottom team Accrington Stanley and Cooper is finding out how difficult it is managing a team that, while showing signs of progress, is also displaying characteristics of a relegation side.
And, he admits, hands are tied when it comes to boosting his squad in the coming weeks and months.
“This week I’ve been in two different meetings with the club’s accountants so I know what we have got and where we are now,’’ he said. “I know what we have to play with, there is something there and me and Craig have to think about how we use what we have left – which isn’t an awful lot – between now and the end of the season.
“We have to use it as best we can in order to progress still.’’
Pools can be a fragile side and finding consistency is proving a problem. For the steps forward made against Accrington and Bristol Rovers, there was a jolt in losing to Oxford last weekend.
“Coming home from Bristol everyone was happy and thinking we were on the way up,’’ reflected Cooper. “Look at the league table and it’s a green arrow going up, now it’s a red arrow going down and we need the green arrow back as quick as possible and progress every week.
“Last week was the first time we haven’t showed what we can do. Three games in a week is brilliant – I think it’s better than a stretched out week.’’
After Mansfield today, Pools go to Sheffield United in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy on Tuesday, before making the haul to Exeter next weekend.
And Cooper is more than happy with the busy nature he has to contend with.
Pools will cover around 1,500 miles in the next seven days and he said: “There’s three away games to come. If you look at the games, my belief is the last five minutes of the Oxford game last week make things look a bit worse, but on the whole we have been OK.
“I still think the core of it is that, away from home are we set up suited to play away? We set up to play nice football and create chances and others set up to counter against you. Three away games in a week doesn’t bother me in the slightest. You have to do things well away from home to get a result.’’
Cooper added: “We have had three draws in our last three away games, two we could and should have won, one we dug in. Over the next three games, it’s about rolling our sleeves up, getting on the bus, getting a job done, recovering, getting on the bus and doing it again.
“We can’t mix the squad up, you get your best team out. Injuries and suspensions we cope with them.
“The team that beat Accrington rightly played against Bristol Rovers and again against Oxford.
“Is it the right one for Mansfield? It’s something we have looked at all week and I like to get everything in place on Friday.
“If you are playing well and getting rotated.. we aren’t Chelsea or Arsenal, for me, you get your best team out.’’
Today’s opponents enjoyed a win at Chestefield last weekend and are eight games unbeaten after returning to the Football League.
“I’ve watched their full game last week and the highlights and they defended their goal with real bravery,’’ said Cooper.
“Two clean sheets in two games, unbeaten in eight – a great stat for them, but one for us to attack.
“At some point it has to spell and we can do it. We have to deal with physicaility and aggression.
“Mansfield play their system, I’ve mulled over if we match them, stick with it, or change slightly. Then we will have it all in place Friday to make sure people know what is expected of them on Saturday.
“I like to all to be laid out for the players so get everyone prepared in their head.’’
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