Wonderkid Luke James has been in fine form for the Monkey Hangers.

by Susan Jardine

I daresay that when Hartlepool and Coventry City were paired together in the draw for the second round of the FA Cup a few wry smiles may well have crossed the faces of Pools fans.

Just over a year ago Hartlepool and Coventry met at Victoria Park in a League 1 match. The result was an ignominious 5-0 mauling at the hands of the Sky Blues. The statistics made uncomfortable reading for any Hartlepool fan. Coventry had 12 shots on target to Hartlepool’s three.

Of course Hartlepool went on to experience the disappointment of relegation, albeit they made a real fight of it towards the end of the season. This season has seen Hartlepool make a slow start before hitting a vein of form that has seen them catapult themselves to the fringes of the play offs area. Colin Cooper and Luke James have been rewarded with awards for October Manager and Player of the month for league 2 respectively. The question is can Hartlepool pull off another upset in the FA Cup by knocking out another league 1 side at the Vic.

Hartlepool edged a five goal thriller against Notts County in the first round, at one stage leading 3-1 with an opener from Jack Baldwin and a brace from James before Notts County dragged themselves back into the game with a Ronan Murray goal to give themselves some hope of takiing the tie back to Meadow Lane. Hartlepool though were not to be denied and saw out the remaining minutes of normal time and five minutes of stoppage time.

So can they repeat their success this weekend. A quick glance at Hartlepool’s results reflects a marked improvement of late. Their last home defeat in the league was against Oxford, and since then a number of teams have found it hard to break down the Hartlepool defence let alone win a match at the Vic. The only abberation on their home record since their defeat by Oxford in September was 2-1 reverse inflicted on them by Rotherham in the Johnstone’s Paint trophy last month.

Coventry’s away record however makes impressive reading. They are unbeaten in their last five matches on their travels, but on the debit side they have conceded 34 goals this season. What might be heartening for Hartlepool fans is that in the last month five of them came on home soil against struggling Tranmere Rovers and another three were leaked in a 3-3 draw with Bradford.

So, it all adds up to an intriguing clash between two teams in mid table in their respective leagues. For Hartlepool Luke James has been in fine form, Coventry, though have a problem as striking duo Callum Wilson and Leon Clarke are both unavailable. Wilson is suspended and Clarke is injured. So if the Hartlepool defence holds firm then Hartlepool may be able to spring a surprise. The Hartlepool defence has been a little more miserly than the Coventry one of late, conceding eight in seven games. Coventry’s defence have shipped thirteen in six matches.

And if Hartlepool fans need any further encouragement that their team could upset the former cup winners, then maybe casting their minds back to 1989 might help. At that point in time Coventry were a top flight team when they faced non league Sutton United at Gander Green Lane on a very cold afternoon in January. As legend now states Tony Rains opened the scoring for Sutton before David Phillips replied for the Sky Blues. Anyone who thought Sutton’s chance had gone and that Coventry would go on to win were to be proved wrong when Matthew Hanlan snatched the winner on the hour.

As we all know the FA Cup throws up a shock with regularity. Where will it be this weekend? They say revenge is a dish best served cold, if Hartlepool triumph then it may well come direct from the freezer.