COLIN Cooper faces a difficult selection dilemma ahead of Hartlepool United’s FA Cup second round replay against Coventry City tonight.
Pool boss Cooper rested strikers Luke James and James Poole at the weekend and handed Jonathan Franks a chance to impress – an opportunity that Franks seized with both hands, as he scored both goals in the 2-2 league draw at Cheltenham.
Now, as Pool prepare to head to Coventry’s temporary home at Northampton Town’s Sixfields Stadium, Cooper must decide whether to stick with Franks or bring back Poole and James.
“Luke (James) was excellent in the original tie against Coventry, despite a tough game against their three centre-backs,” said Cooper, whose side drew 1-1 against the Sky Blues at Victoria Park 10 days ago.
“That was why I decided to rest him at the weekend.
“And as for James [Poole], we have to be clever because teams are working to stop what he is doing. But Franksie was great on Saturday.
“He looked sharp throughout, he scored two goals and had another disallowed, so he could easily have ended up with a hat-trick.
“So it is a hard decision to have to make, and I will leave it until later today before I make a final call on it.”
Andy Monkhouse’s late equaliser cancelled out Carl Baker’s first-half opener in the first meeting between the sides, but Cooper admits Pools face an even tougher test in the replay.
“I felt we did very well in the first game, particularly considering Coventry are a midtable League One side – and they would be in a play-off position had they not had a points deduction,” he said.
“But of course it will be harder in the replay, Firstly, because we are away from home and, secondly, because Coventry will have strikers Leon Clarke and Callum Wilson back after they missed out last time round.
“I’ve watched those two a few times this season and they are a very good pair.
“We will have to be very good to stop them, we saw in the first game that Coventry play some nice football too.
“But it’s the FA Cup so we may as well go and have a right go. We are a good side and showed that last time.”
The winner of tonight’s game will face a third round tie against bottom-of-the-Championship Barnsley at Oakwell. Cooper said: “Both ourselves and Coventry know what awaits in the third round.
“But one of us has to get there first! It’s nice to know what happens next, but it is all hypothetical unless you win.”
Coventry manager Steven Pressley says Leon Clarke is in contention to start tonight after having to settle for a 20 minute substitute outing in the 2-2 draw against Crewe at the Alexandra Stadium on Saturday.
“Leon is ready to start. The big chap is raring to go and seems eager to get back to it,” he said.
“He was obviously disappointed he didn’t start the game at the weekend. Understandably so as you want all your players disappointed if they’re not in the side.
“He is looking forward to returning and I think it will be a boost to the group to see him return.”
While Cooper has no fresh injury concerns, Pressley could be without defender Jordan Clarke after he suffered an ankle injury at the weekend.
Fellow defender Jordan Willis is also not yet ready to return from injury.
And Coventry’s loanees Chris Dagnall and Chris Maguire will be ineligble for tonight’s game.