JOHN Hughes says Hartlepool United are fuelled by the desire to prove people wrong after the dramatic win over Leyton Orient moved them off the bottom of League One.
Pools have propped up the table since defeat at Bury in late October, a match which proved Neale Cooper’s last in charge.
Hughes has previously admitted he inherited a side “devastatingly low on confidence”.
But Saturday’s last-gasp 2-1 victory – achieved thanks to goals in the 88th and 94th minutes from Peter Hartley and Luke James – saw Pools climb above Portsmouth and move to within eight points of safety.
Hughes believes there is a new-found determination within his camp, evidenced by their five-game unbeaten run and weekend heroics.
“We are chipping away at the gap,” said the Scot, “We are enjoying the fight, embracing it and we want to prove people wrong – that’s the fuel we are playing on.
“The others are all looking over their shoulders saying ‘here they come, here they come’ and that’s not getting carried away. Even if we get beat next week we will dust ourselves down and go again.
“We’ve talked of ‘cup finals’ – there are 14 of them to come now, that’s the mindset.”
Hughes broke with his usual pre-match preparation for the visit of Orient.
The manager thought his players were mentally fatigued in the wake of last Tuesday’s goalless draw with Portsmouth and so gave them two days off.
He also shelved Friday’s pre-game meeting, instead calling on his players to take the lead.
He reflected: “It’s probably the first time on a Friday we have never had a team meeting.
“I left it for a purpose. I wanted to see who are my leaders, the lieutenants on the pitch, who could come up trumps?
“You can see there is a belief in there.
“We gave them two days off last week and, of course, that only works if you go on and win. But the boys are responding to what we’re trying to do and that is evident – we’re five unbeaten and eight points off now, we’ll just keep going and see where it takes us.
“We’re off the bottom and that’s a massive positive – all I keep saying is ‘give yourselves a chance’.”
HARTLEPOOL: Flinders, Horwood, Hartley, Collins, Austin, Humphreys, Baldwin, Walton (Howard 61), Franks (James 80), Wyke, Poole (Monkhouse 61). Subs not used: McHugh, Luscombe, Rutherford, Holden. Goals: Hartley 88, James 90
LEYTON ORIENT: Jones, Odubajo, Cuthbert, Baudry, Sawyer (Clarke 62), Batt (Vincelot 89), Rowlands, James, Cook, MacDonald, Mooney (J Smith 80). Subs not used: Grainger, McSweeney, Griffith, Omozusi. Goal: Rowlands 8pen
Att: 3,773. Ref: Scott Duncan (Tyne & Wear)