JOHN Hughes hopes that his first victory as manager of Hartlepool United will form the launchpad for the second half of the season.
The Scot, at the seventh attempt, celebrated three points with a magnificent win over League One leaders Sheffield United on Saturday.
But Hughes is guarded against “false dawns” and says his side must follow up their long-overdue triumph with another success against Preston North End at Victoria Park tomorrow afternoon.
“I’m just hoping this might be the start of something and not a false dawn,” he said, a double from Steve Howard and a Ritchie Humphreys effort having sealed the shock weekend win.
“I don’t want to get carried away but we’ll soon find out if it is a new beginning.
“Nothing is a given in this game. We went to the home of the league leaders, who were celebrating 150 years of football at Bramall Lane, and they were meant to win the game hands-down.
“Hopefully we’ll get confidence and momentum to build on this.”
The win was a first in 23 outings for Pools and saw them move back to within 11 points of safety, although they remain rooted to the foot of League One.
Pools took the lead when Evan Horwood crossed from the left and Steve Howard powered in to plant a header low into the net.
It was just the second time Pools had led under Hughes’s care, but by half-time they were on level terms, Michael Doyle firing through the grasp of Scott Flinders, whose balance appeared to be undone by the heavy mud.
The Blades had a goal disallowed after the break when Ryan Flynn skipped through to net, only to see the assistant referee flagging.
There was nothing wrong with Pools’ reply. Horwood found space down the left again and crossed for Humphreys who fired in off the keeper from eight yards.
The game-sealing goal arrived 18 minutes from time. Horwood was again involved, finding substitute James Poole with a slick pass.
There was work to be done, however, and he hung up a far-post cross which Howard, stretching, duly looped over home keeper George Long.
It wasn’t quite game over and Harry Maguire did blast home in stoppage time, but the points, you felt, were never in doubt from that moment.
Sheffield Utd: Long, Westlake, Maguire, Hill, Williams, Blackman, Doyle (Cresswell 82), McDonald, Flynn, Cofie (Chapell 67), Kitson (Ironside 82). Subs Not Used: Coyne, McAllister, Philliskirk, Kennedy. Booked: Maguire. Goals: Doyle 30, Maguire 90.
Hartlepool: Flinders, Richards, Hartley, Collins, Horwood, Franks (Monkhouse 80), Walton (Austin 69), Sweeney, Humphreys, Howard, Wyke (Poole 60). Subs Not Used: McHugh, Baldwin, Holden, James. Booked: Collins, Hartley, Monkhouse, Poole. Goals: Howard 7, Humphreys 54, Howard 72.
Att: 19,941. Ref: Darren Deadman (Cambridgeshire).