IF Hartlepool United are to make the play-offs, they are going to have to improve their away form.
Pools have eight games remaining this season – five at Victoria Park and three on the road.
Home form in recent weeks has been impeccable – they haven’t conceded a goal there since January 11 and in the five games since have scored 12 times, winning four and drawing one.
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But on the road of late it’s been a different tale and Friday’s 1-0 defeat at Oxford means they have taken just one point from 12 since winning at Dagenham in early February.
Pools have back-to-back home games this week with Mansfield visiting tomorrow night before Cheltenham visit on Saturday.
Colin Cooper’s side are six points short of seventh spot and he admitted: “We have had four away games and only came away with one point. They have all been very close if you look at the results, but we haven’t taken enough from them.
“That’s the frustrating thing – no one has turned us over and that continues to be the case.
“But if we don’t sparkle like we did against Bristol Rovers at home, then we have to grind something out.
“At Wycombe and Oxford, we just haven’t ground it out enough and ended up losing in a disappointing fashion.’’ Pools were reduced to ten men in the closing stages on Friday when Simon Walton was sent off. The Us scored the winner shortly after, leaving Cooper frustrated.
“It’s not our night on Friday, but keep 11 on the pitch and we can get something,’’ he reflected.
“We did it at Accrington and, for the final three away games, we have to come off with something positive.
“Let’s hope our last away game, at Plymouth, we have to get something to get us into a position where there’s something positive to play for in the last game of the season against Exeter.
“But the six games between now and then are going to be so important. We have to try and bridge that gap between us in the playoffs, but we can only bridge it by playing in a disciplined fashion. We have to do it the way we have been – keeping the ball away from our goal and making sure we create something ourselves.’’ Pools will be without Walton tomorrow night, and will discover today how many games he will miss for his dismissal.
The red card for two cautions means a one-game suspension, but in collecting the bookings on the night he also passed the ten caution threshold which triggers a two-game ban.
With the FA going back to work today after being closed over the weekend, Pools will find out today the length of his ban.
Cooper added: “We will be without Simon on Tuesday and like we said about Andy Monkhouse last week, he’s also been an integral part of the team and the squad.
“It’s an opportunity for someone else – and with eight games to go, if someone comes in and does a job, then I’ve a decision to make.
“I was a bit frustrated with the second yellow card, the red mist came down. I was trying to get Antony Sweeney on and to get the message across to him to stay on the pitch – by the time Simon got the message, he was off the pitch.’’