AWAY from home this season, and Hartlepool United have set their standards. Now, with four games remaining away from Victoria Park, they need to hit them again.

The performances in convincing wins at Mansfield, Sheffield United and Exeter in the space of seven September days have rarely been matched.

Their last three away games have been disappointing performances at Northampton, Wycombe and Accrington.

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Pools are at Oxford tonight, a team seven points and four places above Pools in the League Two standings.

Victory this evening and the out of sorts home side will be within the sights of Pools and the chasing pack.

“We went to Mansfield and Exeter and won well,’’ reflected Cooper. “Last week before the Bristol Rovers game we put on the board where we are – games and targets. A week gone and where do they want to be? Look at what we said before Bristol Rovers, then they are the standards now set.

“Do the right things, and we have players who can create chances and score. If we keep them to nil then we come home with something, but I’m pretty certain we can come back with one or two nil.

“We conceded disappointing goals at Wycombe, but that hasn’t happened too much. Be solid away from home. Do that, be compact and disciplined and we will get chances.

“If they come out and blow us away we have nowhere to go. If we come out and take what they throw at us then and counter, there’s every chance of giving them a good game.

“They play nice football and will be frustrated they aren’t in a stronger position than they are – but I would love to be in their position, defending the play-offs instead of chasing them.

“We do have the capability of being solid and creating chances. Bridge that gap is about doing our job and if we don’t then we are obviously a little bit short.’’ Pools lost 3-1 at Victoria Park to the Us in September, a result that rankles still with Cooper.

“Oxford were, on the day, playing good football but I look back at the day with a bad taste and we were denied at least a point by the officials and they were big enough to admit it afterwards,’’ he said.

“That feeling has not disappeared as we should not have lost on the day. Now we go there to keep in the mix.

“It’s a tough game, and they felt hard done by last weekend and they have players who will come in and do a job.

“If they get a positive result against us then they have a sizeable gap on the chasing group. We have to be, as I keep saying, strong and emulate what we did last week. If we are positive and come back with a win great, if we have to come back resilient with a point then good.’’ The Us lost boss Chris Wilder in January, with caretaker Mickey Lewis remaining in charge and little sign of a permanent replacement.

They have won only one in nine and were beaten at leaders Chesterfield last weekend.

“They are in a sticky patch,’’ mused Cooper. “They had two sent off last week and one stretchered off. They were two down after 15 minutes and felt they were two slack goals to concede.

“Chesterfield wrapped it up 3-0 and it looks harsh and they didn’t feel it was 3-0. They feel more than capable of being in the position they are.’’ Pools will be without Andy Monkhouse for around a month because of a hamstring stain, with Jack Compton starting this evening.

There’s been no progress on the appointment of a new assistant manager this week and Cooper admits he is on standby to make a defensive loan signing if necessary.

“Are we running out of players? Well we have a full-back back with Michael Duckworth in training. Neil Austin’s season is over, but he can cover across the back line,’’ he said.

“We are short defensively, and I’ve watched games this week, but I won’t being players in for the sake of it.

“But we are at a point where if we get in the mix and lose a defensive player, then we are shot. It’s something to look at and I’ve got things in place if I need to react.

“I’m ready to react if needed, but you don’t wish ill on anybody.

“I would love to see the next nine games without problem, but it may not happen. We have options in other areas, but not defensively.’’