Hartlepool defender targets climb up table
Hartlepool United defender Matthew Bates is keen to inspire his team-mates to more clean sheets - as they look to boost their campaign over the busy festive schedule.
Come the turn of the year, Bates and co are hoping to be much higher up the League Two tables and still in the FA Cup.
Pools visit League One Port Vale on Sunday in the second round of the cup, but after that the focus will be very much on improving the team’s league position.
Pools had a mixed November, with three wins (one in the FA Cup) immediately followed by league defeats. It leaves them hovering above the relegation zone but in a tight league only a few points away from being genuine play-off contenders.
And the experienced Bates is keen to build on the recent wins, all of which came on the back of clean sheets.
“I am very philosophical about it,” he said.
“I have been a part of teams where we have conceded bad goals and I have been to blame for them.
“But we have a young, inexperienced team - we are learning and hopefully we can get better.
“We want to build on the positives of the clean sheets we have kept recently.”
Pools are four points ahead of second bottom Cheltenham, yet only five points adrift of Blackpool, who hold the final play-off spot.
And a couple of wins in sucession would throw them right into the play-off mix.
But that will be tough in the weeks ahead, with a home game against 11th placed Cambridge being followed by a long trip to Portsmouth.
They then host Blackpool on Boxing Day.
“This league is very tight this year,” added Bates.
“We are 18th now and just a few points off the play-off places.
“If we can get a good run together, then we can get up the table.
“We are not worried at all.”
First up in Sunday’s cup trip to Port Vale, who are comfortable in mid-table in League Two.
A win there would put Pools in the hat for the third round draw, and a chance to face one of the Premier League giants.