PREVIEW: Hartlepool v Luton Town

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As so often in football, a change of manager usually heralds an upturn in fortune and that’s exactly what Hartlepool have found.

A 3-0 home defeat to Carlisle United earlier this month led to the end of Colin Cooper’s 16-month reign, with defender Sam Collins and goalkeeping coach Stephen Pears taking temporary charge.

Despite losing 2-1 to Sheffield United in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy, a run of five league games without a win was ended in some style as Pools triumphed 2-1 at Exeter in the duo’s first league game at the helm last weekend.

Whether Collins is the man to take Pools forward in the long-term is uncertain though as ex-Carlisle boss Graham Kavanagh remains the bookies favourite, with Collins second and Brian Laws third.

On his future, a realistic Collins told BBC Tees: “Results could dictate the future but while I’m in charge players will give 100 per cent.

“What we will get is players who do that, I can accept losing but I can’t accept players not trying.

“I love the club and I understand the way the fans think. It’s working class people who want people to work hard and I understand it.”

Former Pools player Brian Honour also joined the staff on a short-term basis this week in a bid to help out.

Speaking about hiis appointment Collins told the Hartlepool Mail: “We all know his passion for the club, but he has more to offer than that. I know him as a person and his enthusiasm will rub off on the players.

“The ability he has is good and some of the work he has done with the strikers has been very good.

“All these little steps we try to build are aimed towards winning tomorrow.”

It’s at home where most of Pools troubles have been this season as their long-suffering fans have witnessed five defeats from six games, with the hosts only scoring twice and they came in one match, a 2-0 win over Shrewsbury.

Those two strikes form part of the mere seven goals managed in 12 games as Pools have lost eight already to sit in in 21st place, just a point above the drop zone.

Hartlepool have been active in the loan market recently though as they look to try and avoid a second successive season of battling relegation, extending winger Ryan Brobbel’s stay from Middlesbrough, while they also brought in club-mate David Atkinson too.

Pools have been working their north east connections extensively with Boro forward Charlie Wyke extending his stay for another two months to make it a trio from the Riverside, while the Victoria Park side have also borrowed Newcastle goalkeeper Freddie Woodman and Sunderland forward Scott Harrison.

Despite the youthful arrivals, there is an experienced streak running through Pools squad with midfielder Tommy Miller and Striker Marlon Harewood both with plenty of top flight experience.

Centre half Matthew Bates played in Europe and the Premier League for Middlesbrough as did Stuart Parnaby, while Neil Austin is approaching 200 league games for the club.

Team news: Hatters could welcome back Luke Rooney to the squad and Ricky Miller has been recalled from his loan spell at Dover Athletic.

Ross Lafayette is out after his hernia operation, while Jake Howells, Paul Connolly, Fraser Franks and Curtley Williams aren’t expected to feature.

Pools will be without Jack Compton as the winger begins his rehabilitation from a knee operation. Stuart Parnaby is also sidelined with a knee problem, while youngster Kieran Green may start after impressing for the reserves in midweek.

Top scorers: Hatters: Mark Cullen (4). Shrimpers: Charlie Wyke (4).

Average League Two crowds: Hatters: 8,498. Shrimpers: 3,336.

Man in the middle: Paul Tierney - referee has has already courted controversy amongst Luton fans this season, sending off Luke Rooney for a what he believed was a dive during their 2-1 defeat to Swindon in the Capital One Cup earlier this season.

The official has proved fairly card happy over his career, with four reds and 39 yellows in just 12 games so far, while he last season he produced 110 cautions in 35 games with 13 reds too.

Did officiate Luton’s 2-2 draw at Rotherham in the FA Cup back in 2009, amazingly keeping his cards in his pocket though.

In charge: Sam Collins, 37-year-old defender, who took over as caretaker at Hartlepool earlier this month.

The long-serving centre half began his career at Huddersfield Town in 1997, while then had moves to Bury (75k) and then Port Vale, Hull City (£65k) and Swindon before a move to Hartlepool United in 2008.

Has made over 200 appearances for the Pools in that time, including four this season, before taking over when Colin Cooper resigned earlier this month.

View from the opposition: Midfielder Michael Woods told the Hartlepool Mail - “This weekend is a massive game. In this league you can get three or four wins on the spin and jump eight or nine places.

“But it is no good winning last week if we don’t back that up with a win tomorrow.

“We have been working hard and Sam (Collins) demands that of us every day and there is competition for places now and I am confident we can build some momentum.”

One to watch: Charlie Wyke - 21-year-old striker on-loan from Middlesbrough, who is in his second spell with Hartlepool.

Yet to make a senior appearance for his home club and had spells with Kettering and Pools in previous years before spending three months with AFC Wimbledon last season, scoring twice.

Rejoined Pools in August and netted on his debut at the Dons, going on to net three in his first five games.

Went three matches without scoring until netting in the 2-1 win at Exeter last time out

We’ve got form: Hatters haven’t the best of times at Hartlepool with three wins and five defeats in their previous eight trips, scoring 12 times and conceding 19.

They started with a run of four straight defeats between 1966 and 1988, until Micky Weir and Darron McDonough scored in a 2-1 FA Cup triumph during the 87-88 campaign.

There have been some high scoring encounters in recent years as Hatters won a League One clash 3-2 back in February 2005 when Chris Coyne, Enoch Showunmi and Kevin Foley scored.

Luton also went down to a 4-3 defeat in 2004 as Steve Howard and Michael Leary (2) were on target, but a last-minute goal from ex-Luton striker Adam Boyd saw the hosts finish on top.

Last time out: Hatters were hammered 4-0 on their last visit to Victoria Park, a League One clash back in February 2008.

Richie Barker put the hosts in front from the penalty spot after 30 minutes, while it was in the second half they ran riot, with goals from Alan Thompson (61), Joel Porter (64) and Barker (73).

Hatters: Dean Brill, Richard Jackson, Chris Perry (Calvin Andrew 67), Sol Davis, Steve Robinson (Alan Goodall 67), Matthew Spring, Keith Keane, Don Hutchison (Steven O’Leary 31), David Bell, Drew Talbot, Paul Furlong.

Subs not used: Marlon Beresford, Sam Parkin.

Attendance: 3,913.

Referee: Neil Swarbrick.

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