Cooper: Let's finish on a positive note

The Northern Echo: Starting spot: James Starting spot: James

TEN home games, three wins, 11 goals scored. Statistics which Neale Cooper is desperate to improve on.

Hartlepool United only have two home games left this season, today's with Chesterfield followed by Leyton Orient in two weeks' time.

With little riding on their last four matches, other than the desire to top last season's 57-point tally, Cooper is adamant his squad ends this season on something of a positive note.

And, to help the club's £150 season ticket initiative, the need for victories and goals to carry in to the summer is essential for the club.

But goals have been thin on the Victoria Park ground all season, with only 18 scored and 19 conceded in 21 matches.

Defensively sound, Pools will field Ryan Noble and Luke James as a strikeforce this afternoon. Chesterfield, with former Pools boss Chris Turner chief executive, can be relegated today.

"It's frustrating because we work so hard on the attacking side of things,'' said Cooper.

"It's great not conceding - but I like my teams to pour forward and create chances and score goals.

"I've been to see Chesterfield a couple of times and they have done well. They got a good win last weekend and they can obviously do it when they're up for it.

"We will look to play with a front two of Ryan Noble and Luke James.

"Luke is a lot better after his back problems and is strong enough to start. If we can get those two connecting together, hopefully they'll do the business.

"I'm not thinking about them going down at all, it's sad when any team gets relegated at any level.

"But my main concern is Hartlepool and we've got our own problems - we need to get on the scoresheet.''

Yet Pools bagged four against Carlisle and three against Notts County - two teams with the play-offs in their sights - to show what they are capable of doing at home.

"I said to Micky (Barron) 'what formation did we play against Carlisle?' - I might put the exact same team out!'' quipped Cooper. "I'll find my notes from that game and see if we can replicate that.

"The whole basis of training is creating and scoring chances.

"I don't just expect strikers to score the goals.

"Sweens got one down at Colchester but we need more midfield players to contribute.

"They've got to take responsibility.

Pools have not scored at home since James Poole's header just before half-time in the 1-1 draw with MK Dons on March 3 - a run of 410 minutes.

"The final ball into the box, the final pass - it all has to be better,'' said Cooper.

"I spoke to some supporters after the game and they were happy enough with the performance, I just wish we could put some goals on for them.

"We can't even get an own goal at the moment.

"A wee goal or deflection could kick it off.''

Poole is out today as he struggles to overcome hamstring and thigh problems, while James Brown has seen a specialist after more injury woe, a groin problem keeping him out of the last couple of games.

But James is fit to start after a back strain and Cooper said: "It's always a concern because physios are protective to players and they would prefer no one to ever play!

"There's been times when I've been frustrated because I really want him in the team and he's not been ready.

"But you won't get a more honest boy than him and when I've asked he's said he can still feel it.

"There's no way I would risk that because it can lead to stress fractures at that age.

"He feels a lot better though.

"But when he came on he gives us that dynamic play.''

Pools this week gave professional deals to five of the club's promising teenagers.

Nathan Buddle, Greg Rutherford, Lewis Hawkins, Darren Holden and Josh Rowbotham have all been added to the ranks .

Cooper said: "If we can be totally safe points wise this season then I'll be looking to give one or two of them a game before the end of the season.

"That's important we do that. Whether that's on the bench or starting, we'll have to see.

"That might be on Saturday. Potentially they could be very good players.''

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