GAVIN Strachan might still be in the infancy of his Hartlepool United career, but boss Neale Cooper has no doubts about his ability.

Strachan, a summer signing on the eve of the new season for Cooper after the midfielder was left without a club, has been a consistent performer. He has scored four times - three from free-kicks - in 18 league games as he enjoys a consistent run in the side for the first time in his career since starting out at Coventry in 1997.

Pool are sitting in a healthy sixth place in Division Two and Strachan was on target from the penalty spot in Saturday's win over Rushden. Cooper, who played with Strachan's father Gordon in Aberdeen's European Cup Winners Cup side in 1983, said: "He's the best signing I've made in my managerial career.

"Gavin has been brilliant for us since he came here. He has a great attitude to the game - he's been brought up the right way - and is a confident player. He is a major player and has scored some important goals.

"I was lucky to be able to bring him here. He was due to go to Sheffield Wednesday in the summer, but then his dad phoned and said he was still available.

"So we decided to take a look and I was impressed with what I saw.

"Gavin is playing well. There was a little bit of anger from Gavin on Saturday - he wanted to take a free-kick right outside the area but Ritchie Humphreys wanted it.''

Pool reserves take on Darlington at Victoria Park this afternoon, but will be without one of the regulars who has helped Martin Scott's side remain unbeaten this season.

Striker Adam Boyd has struggled to find a place in the first team, but went to Boston last week for a month-long loan deal and was instrumental in their 3-0 win over Orient. Boston player coach Neil Redfearn said: "Adam showed he liked to get at people and when he went through Orient's defence you could see they were scared to death of his pace.

"He commits defenders and then can cut inside and cause problems and that is what we needed.

"He goes past people for fun and his confidence was obvious."

Tickets for the FA Cup tie at Burton Albion on Sunday, December 6 go on sale this morning.

Pool have been allocated 600 terrace tickets and they are available to season ticket holders from today to Saturday on production of Voucher F -one ticket per person.

If there are any remaining tickets after this period, they will go on general sale on Monday.

Meanwhile, Plymouth boss Paul Sturrock is intending to bolster his squad ahead of Saturday's game.

The Pilgrims lost top spot after losing at QPR last week and Sturrock, who will be without suspended striker Mickey Evans and midfielder David Friio, said: "I think this team has had enough opportunities to get back on the rails. There will be many, many changes for Saturday.

"The last four games have proved that and I think it is now time to bring fresh people in with fresh ideas." Last week he tried unsuccessfully to sign Torquay's David Graham and is interested in Reading's Nathan Tyson.