Maidstone 1 Hartlepool Utd 2: Caretaker boss out to win every game until the end of the season now
Matthew Bates believes his Hartlepool United players can not only cement their place in the National League, but also win every game remaining this campaign.
Pools secured their third win on the bounce at the Gallagher Stadium yesterday, seeing off fellow strugglers Maidstone United thanks to two goals from Michael Woods. Ross Lafayette netted an injury-time consolation for the hosts.
Given the Stones were unbeaten on home turf in their last three, this was no easy start to the Easter weekend for Bates and Co.
And, having passed their passed their first test with flying colours, opening up a seven-point gap between themselves and the relegation zone, Bates is eyeing yet more success when bottom-of-the-pile Guiseley head to Victoria Park on Monday.
Not only that, Bates is of the belief that his players can extend their five-game unbeaten run right to the end of the season.
“It has been a steady process in improving for us as a team, but I think we can go on and win every game this season,” said the stand-in boss, who claims he is yet to receive any assurances about his future at Pools.
“I have a firm belief we can do that.
“I have to admit I am a little surprised by how quickly the turnaround has been.
“It has just been a case of getting more bodies in midfield, playing two up top, things like that.
“There are loads of things we have worked on and I am delighted the way the lads have taken to what I have said.
“All we have to do now is keep working hard and producing the results out there. We are not out of the woods yet.”
After an end-to-end opening, Pools edged themselves in front on the 25th minute as Woods followed up a Rhys Oates effort to turn home from close range.
Sub Devante Rodney had a chance to make it 2-0, but he squandered the opportunity when set free by Nicky Featherstone and, at the other end, Greg Luer was denied by an outrageous stop by Pools keeper Scott Loach.
The stage was set for a tense finale, until Jake Cassidy was felled in the area and Woods stepped up to net his 11th goal of the campaign from the penalty spot.
Seven minutes of injury time was the call from the sidelines and that sparked the Stones into action.
They got a lifeline with six minutes of added time still to play, courtesy of striker Lafayette, but Pools hung on for yet another vital three-point haul, which saw them leapfrog their hosts in the National League table.
“It was scrappy,” admitted Bates.
“We did not play as well as we did in the last few games, but, in terms of our desire, the hardwork, shape, sticking together, it was a good win.
“It didn’t have the style, but it was a great, great win for us.
“We worked on opening up them up, switching play and it worked well for us.”
On closing the game out, Bates admits despite many getting a few jitters he was never in doubt his players would see things through.
“It was a tense finish,” he added. “Football is never straight-forward, although, even when they scored, I did fancy us to see it out.
“I think they probably deserved a goal due to the possession they had in the second half.
“But I think we managed the game well.
“I wasn’t overly happy with our possession, but what we lacked in that area we more than made up for with our mindset and in digging it out.”