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Pools need to get the most out of Howard
THREE games in and Hartlepool United have yet to register a goal in League and Cup.
Coming after the close-season signing of Steve Howard, the big targetman returning to Pools after leaving for a burgeoning career in 1999, it's all the stranger.
Howard had had a few openings, but Pools haven't been the most creative side in their games to date.
Neale Cooper, however, insists that will all change. Pools meet Scunthorpe at Victoria Park today, and, with a free week to prepare and a gap of 11 days since their last outing, a defeat at Notts County which left Cooper raging, the Pools boss is sure of improved fortunes.
"We have to link up better (with Howard), the quality of passes into him has to be better,'' said Cooper. "He is not going to run about in behind defences. That's never been his game, he needs quality balls into him from the centre of the park, good link up play from whoever plays alongside him.
"That's what we have worked on. It's a learning curve for everyone. James Poole did well with him against Swindon and then never got in behind him at Notts County. Stevie needs that, he needs people in and around him.
"It's a bit different for the players - they haven't really had anyone like that in the squad to work with before now.''
With Cooper sure to restore Paul Murray, last season's player of the year to the starting line-up, it remains to be seen what formation he sets out with.
"We like to play 4-4-2 and with the people we have, it's not about systems. It's who is up for it on the day,'' he insisted.
"You can watch all the teams you want to watch and prepare as well as you can, but it's how you turn up for the game.
"It's how we play. We work on attacking plays, defensive drills as well. We do passing drills, possession play lots of them and then we didn't take it into the Notts County game.
"I want character this weekend, come out and show me a reaction.
"We play positive stuff, that's the aim.''
After an unexpected game-free Saturday last weekend, Pools were stuck in motorway traffic following an accident in London, Cooper has ensured his players are well prepared today.
"Last week was a strange one, something I've never experienced in my career,'' he said. "Stuck on the M11 for hours, we couldn't move. A nightmare. We couldn't get off the road.
"Everyone was out to bounce back from the Notts County game.
"We trained at Peterborough the day before, Gavin Strachan is a coach there and was able to arrange it.
"From 12.30 on Saturday getting on the bus, we got back to Hartlepool at 10.15.
"There was a lot of calls going on, between us, Orient and the Football League, but we were so near and so far.
"We tried a Police escort, but we couldn't get anywhere.
"It's nice to be back at home this weekend. They have trained well this week and hopefully we can put on a good show.''
Cooper added: "There's been a bit of a break since the last game, but that has passed now. By Thursday last week it was dealt with and we were positive for the next game. I have to be like that.''
"I said my bit. They picked up by Thursday, Friday and knew I wasn't happy. The spirit was soon back amongst everyone.
"Scunthorpe haven't started well, but it happens. Some teams fly off and then tail away, we need a win and need to get on the scoresheet.''