Colin Cooper: Struggling Portsmouth are not to be under-estimated

The form guide points to a near-certain home win, but managerless Portsmouth will be dangerous, Hartlepool United manager Colin Cooper warns

Hartlepool United's manager Colin Cooper
Hartlepool United's manager Colin Cooper

With Hartlepool United hoping for a fifth home win on the trot and Portsmouth looking to avoid a sixth straight defeat, it ought to be the most nailed-on of home bankers at Victoria Park today.

Yet Hartlepool manager Colin Cooper has warned it will be anything but.

Pompey have looked anything but out of place since following the Teessiders into League Two, but the sacking of Guy Whittingham this week makes them a dangerous prospect - not to mention a squad used to playing at a higher level.

Cooper warned: “We shouldn’t forget Portsmouth are a football club till filled with a lot of quality players for this level.

“Guy lost his job and he’s someone I had a lot of time for but (caretaker manager) Andy Awford was a good defender and alongside Alan McLoughlin and David Connolly they have the people to get the team organised, hard-working and difficult to beat.

“They will possibly have an edge as well (after Whittingham’s dismissal) so we will have to be mindful of that and if we’re to get anything from the game we have to continue to do the basics well and on the back of that produce some nice football.

“If anyone thinks because they are 18th and they have just got rid of their manager we just need to turn up to win, then there’s a very good chance we’ll get a kick up the backside.

“Look at where we have come from in the last 10 weeks.

“Look at what Accrington have done in the last eight weeks and that’s possible for any team in this division, I believe.”

Cooper’s team have playing well at home lately, but have lost their last three on the road.

It is something the former Middlesbrough left-back is keen to address.

He added: “To progress as a group and as a club we have to find a level of consistency and that means we don’t win one and then lose one – we have to get the right balance.

“Consistency is the only thing that will get you in to the reaches of the division you want to be.

“Winning and losing will keep you in and around but it won’t get us to where we would like to go.”

The midweek defeat at Bury, in which no fresh injuries were collected, could see changes today.

Andy Monkhouse was suspended at Gigg Lane and his absence was keenly felt. He seems certain to return, but midfielders Brad Walker, Antony Sweeney and Jordan Richards will all hope to do likewise.

Defender Dan Jones is the only unavailable player as he recovers from knee surgery so, despite having released striker Steve Howard and failed to land any of his loan targets before Thursday’s 5.00 deadline, Hartlepool are in good shape. Cooper said: “We definitely missed Andy Monkhouse as an outlet on Tuesday.

“That’s no disrespect to Jonathan Franks, who worked his socks off.

“Andy will be keen to get back into the team. Then we have to think of the best way to give Portsmouth problems.

“As long as everyone remains healthy we have selection issues. I am more than happy with the 22-23 players available to us. We will need those through into January.

“I don’t have any panic. I am not stressed, we have players ready to come into the team so they deserve an opportunity to come in and make an impact. ”

Monkhouse has also been shortlisted for the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy Ultimate Finish award.

The prize goes to the goal of the round in the Football League Trophy and the winger’s strike against former club Rotherham United is one of five Area quarter-final contenders.

Wycombe Wanderers’ Matt McClure, David Mooney of Leyton Orient, Newport County’s Conor Washington and Fleetwood Town’s Antoni Sarcevic are also in the running.

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