Hughes is eager to maintain the Hartlepoll United fight

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JOHN Hughes has reminded people that Hartlepool United were a “laughing stock” at Christmas – insisting they can still beat the drop to League Two.

Pools are now four games without victory – and a goal – heading into tomorrow’s all-important clash at fourth-bottom Oldham Athletic.

Hughes’s men were beaten at Coventry City on Saturday with the home side’s goal arriving amid controversy.

The Pools boss believed Cody McDonald had fouled Peter Hartley prior to netting the winning effort and, following half-time words with referee Fred Graham, he watched the second half from the stands.

But Hughes remains in positive mood today as he prepares for the game against the side who reside just one place above them in the League One relegation zone.

The gap to safety stands at six points with eight matches remaining, and the Scot is quick to point out that Pools had already been written off at the turn of the year.

“Remember we were down and out at Christmas,” he said when asked if the current winless run was of concern.

“We were a laughing stock back then but we put pride back into the club.

“Tomorrow is a huge game and I just hope come April we are still there and still saying that we have huge games, that will mean we’re in with a chance.

“If you said to me at Christmas time that we would still be in there fighting and putting pride back in the club then they would have locked you up in the loony bin.

“That just shows how much of a turnaround there has been.”

There were 33 minutes on the clock when skipper Hartley was thrown off balance by what, on first viewing at least, appeared the illegal intervention of McDonald.

Those of a Pools persuasion waited for the din of the referee’s whistle. It did not sound and McDonald skipped gleefully clear, completing his steal with a low smash into the bottom corner.

Replays, however, are somewhat inconclusive, leaning slightly towards the skill of the striker in rolling his pursuer.

But not once in the wake of McDonald’s goal did Pools ever look like drawing parity.

All of their best work, and there had been some, was confined to the minutes prior.