GAVIN Strachan is confident the real Hartlepool United will stand up tonight. Pool face Brentford at Victoria Park for the second time in ten days.

After missing out on an FA Cup trip to Southampton after losing 1-0 in the fourth round replay, Pool have a point to prove.

The Bees replay with the Saints next week and a last eight tie with Manchester United is up for grabs.

Pool have not beaten Martin Allen's side since 1991 - a run of nine games - and tonight is their fourth meeting this season.

Neale Cooper's side had Jack Ross red-carded in the opening stages of the replay and lost influential Mark Tinkler after half an hour.

They never recovered from the double blow and, after losing to Luton seven days ago, it took until Saturday and a win at Port Vale to shake off the effects.

"The gaffer has said a few times that we pride ourselves on our fitness levels and I think it showed again at the weekend,'' said Gavin Strachan, outstanding in the win at Vale Park.

"We lost two games in a row against two very good teams, so there's no need to panic. This game was ideal for us.

"Port Vale were desperate for the points. If they had won, then I suppose they would have been looking up at the play-offs.

"I suppose we owe Brentford one after what's happened against them this season. But it's a game we can all look forward to with a point to prove.

"The way the game panned out in the FA Cup was disappointing - that wasn't the real Hartlepool.''

Cooper and counterpart Martin Allen cut lively figures on the touchline and the Pool boss had praise for the efforts of his opposite number.

"Brentford might be on a high after their result at the weekend and, to be honest, I'm not really surprised how well they have done at Southampton,'' he said.

"They are a good side and in good form at the moment - unbeaten in seven I think. They are strong and physical.

"But our whole team were excellent right from the word go at Port Vale. It was something we talked about and we got stuck in.

"We didn't give them the chance to settle and in the first half Boydy was something else, he was on fire wasn't he?

"We could have been well in front by half-time, we created a lot of chances.

"Boyd was pulling the defenders all over the park and pulling balls out of the air for fun.

"He was brilliant and he created a lot of chances and openings for other players.

"Eifion was superb - he was winning tackles and headers, tracking back to help Jack Ross and that helped the defence turn in a good performance.''

Brentford travelled to the North-East yesterday and Allen was quick to reject any notion of his side taking the game lightly with one eye on the FA Cup.

"To be honest, I have no interest in the replay,'' he insisted. "My mind is solely fixed on the game at Hartlepool. We are in a good position and that game is my only interest.

"The replay can distract you and then you start losing your head in different areas. We will prepare in the way we always do, exactly the same.''

Allen has signed striker Darren Pratley on loan from Fulham and he could play a part.

* The game is expected to get the go-ahead after the Victoria Park pitch was cleared of a three-inch covering of snow.

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