Hartlepool United aim to maintain their ascent up the League Two table this afternoon when Bristol Rovers are the visitors to Victoria Park.
Manager Colin Cooper’s side have put their early-season struggles behind them in a mid-season surge which leaves them on the shoulders of the play-off positions going into the home straight.
Going into the weekend at tenth in the table, five points and three places behind Southend in the final play-off berth, Cooper’s men will be out to improve on the 2-2 draw they picked up at the Memorial Stadium when the two teams met back in September.
That came courtesy of a goal at the death to deny them all three points, but Hartlepool are a more resilient beast these days and remain unbeaten in their last four home games without conceding a single goal.
Torquay, Newport County and York City have all left the Vic empty-handed since promotion-chasers Rochdale became the last team to win there in January.
Bristol Rovers, too, are a side on the rise, John Ward’s team beaten 2-1 by Dagenham and Redbridge midweek after a run which had propelled them into the mid-table comfort zone.
In the Rovers’ dug-out this afternoon will be one familiar face to Pool fans, former club favourite Darrell Clarke.
Currently assistant manager with the West Country outfit, the former midfielder spent six seasons as a player with Hartlepool, making 127 league appearances before going onto finish his career with Stockport, Port Vale and Rochdale. The assistant manager’s seat on the home bench, however, remains unfilled following Craig Hignett’s departure.
Cooper is understood to have put a number of names forward for the number-two role following Hignett’s decision to become Aitor Karanka’s assistant at Middlesbrough, Mark Venus and Neil Maddison reported to be among the contenders.
On the field, there are no fresh injury worries ahead of the 3pm kick-off. Full-back Neil Austin (toe) and defender Michael Duckworth (leg) are both continuing to make progress, but neither is expected to have recovered in time for today.
Tuesday’s 0-0 draw at Accrington could see a freshening up of the side as Cooper looks to push on, Bristol Rovers similarly unaffected by injuries.
Manager Ward said: “It is a good test for us, as we will be facing a Hartlepool side that has done well and has a number of good players. Don’t forget, though, our last two away performances have been strong and our attitude has been good.”