Hooper determined Town can put Parkway nightmare behind them as midfielder prepares to take on former club Swindon Supermarine
Hungerford Town midfielder Brad Hooper is determined to help his side get back to winning ways ahead of the visit of former club Swindon Supermarine this weekend.
Hooper was an ever-present during the Crusaders’ 14-match unbeaten league run, stretching between October 14 and January 13, as Town played themselves into promotion contention.
However Hungerford have been brought back down to earth over the last two weeks as a narrow defeat against league leaders Chesham was followed by a 6-2 thrashing at the hands of a resurgent Plymouth Parkway – a result made all the more painful given that Town had hammered the Devonshire side 7-0 on the opening day of the Southern Premier League season at Bulpit Lane back in August.
And Hooper – who has grown in stature as the campaign has progressed, becoming one of Hungerford’s most consistent performers – admits the Crusaders simply weren’t at the races on Saturday.
“Everyone’s disappointed,” he said.
“We wanted to get back on the horse after the result at home to Chesham, which was tough to take.
“We were desperate to get back to winning ways but we were all off it, we can’t have any complaints.
“We were prepared for them to want to get back at us after the opening day of the season but with the players we have we feel like we should be winning games like that, no excuses.
“Parkway were up for it and we weren’t, we weren’t good enough.”
Town had named an unchanged XI for four games in a row prior to the ill-fated trip to Plymouth, while Hooper has established a profitable relationship with fellow midfielders Joe Shepherd and Sam De St Croix.
Shepherd was suspended at the weekend, meaning former CSKA Moscow man Jacob Gardiner-Smith came in for a first league start since signing for Town earlier this month.
The midfield triumvirate of Hooper, Shepherd and De St Croix has been fundamental to much of Town’s success of late with Hooper, who has played as the deepest of the three, delighted to have formed such a formidable partnership.
He said: “It’s been really good and of course it helps that we were winning.
“I think there’s a nice balance between us; the three of us all offer different things.
“It doesn’t matter who plays in there. We’ve got a strong squad and a number of great midfielders at the club, so I think whoever comes in can make an impact.
“I’ve obviously enjoyed playing and giving Shep and Sam – two fantastic players – the license to get forward.”
The 29-year-old, who came through the Cirencester academy and went on to make over 100 appearances for the Centurions, signed for Hungerford in the summer and was initially deployed in a more advanced role – if not an out-and-out number 10, then an eight tasked with making runs beyond frontman Conor McDonagh.
While Hooper – a thoughtful, intelligent and cultured footballer – admits he doesn’t mind where he plays, he feels he’s best suited to his current position screening the back four.
“As long as I’m playing, I’m happy,” he said.
“I don’t think I’d ever played as high up the pitch as I did at the start of this season but, saying that, I did enjoy making those forward runs.
“I do prefer being in that deeper role because I think that’s where I’m most effective. You get more touches of the ball and I think there are players who are better in the final third than I am.”
Despite a disappointing fortnight that has seen Town slip out of the play-off places, Hooper is determined his side will soon re-discover their form and can challenge for promotion from the Southern Premier League South.
He said: “We’d love to win the league – whether that’s realistic or possible, I’m not so sure, but it’s still something we have to reach for.
“We want to finish as high as possible, with the play-offs as a minimum.
“The mood needs to remain positive. You don’t become a bad side overnight and it’s just a case of putting another run together, which I think we all fully believe we can do.
“We understand how disappointing Saturday was and we experienced a lot of negative emotions but it’s gone now, we can’t change it.
“What will define us now is how we respond to that this Saturday.”
Hungerford are set to welcome local rivals Swindon Supermarine to Bulpit Lane this weekend. Since the appointment of Stuart Fleetwood as manager, Marine have risen from rock bottom to 14th and will arrive in West Berkshire on a run of eight wins in their last 11.
The game takes on an added significance for Hooper, who scored 40 goals – including 15 in his debut season – in almost 200 games for Marine before signing for Hungerford in June.
Hooper, who played alongside Fleetwood when the two were together at Marine, admits it will be an important weekend for him personally and said he is committed to impressing against his former side.
“You always want to give a good account of yourself against one of your old clubs,” he said.
“You want to help the team win and make an impact. I want to do myself proud.
“Supermarine have been on a great run and Fleets is doing an unbelievable job there. He’s a great guy and I think he’s just got everyone pulling in the same direction; sometimes that alone can win you games.
“We know they’ll come to Bulpit Lane in high spirits and wanting to turn us over. We have to give them respect, not too much, but understand that they’re a good footballing side – I think they were one of, if not the best, footballing sides we’ve played this season.
“I do think we should have too much for them. It should be a good game.”
Much like Supermarine under Stuart Fleetwood, Hungerford under popular boss Danny Robinson are a squad full of character and cohesion and Hooper is confident Town’s personality will help them bounce back following a difficult few weeks.
He said: “The culture that Danny instills in the club is great and I think you can see that on the pitch.
“The togetherness is huge. You need to get on well with your teammates and be willing to go to war with them on Saturdays.
“Danny, the coaching staff and everyone behind the scenes have created a great environment. That really helped us in the run before these last couple of games and that will help us stick together and come through this sticky patch.”