All Craig Harrison wants for Christmas is .... a load of points.
Of course, this is stating the obvious – which football manager would turn around and say “actually I’m not bothered how many we get.”
But for Harrison and Hartlepool United the festive programme is vital to their National League hopes.
Pools play four times inside 10 days, starting with Maidenhead at home on Saturday, December 23.
They have bank holiday derbies with Gateshead, away on Boxing Day, and at home on New Year’s Day, with a trip to struggling Chester on Saturday December 30.
All four fixtures are against sides who, going into today’s matches, are below Pools in the table.
“The festive period was always going to be vital because the games come thick and fast,” said Harrison, whose 13th-placed team were today playing at Dover Athletic, who are in fifth spot.
“You have an opportunity to get a lot of points in a short spell of time – 12 points are there to play for.
“That’s important, that’s a good thing.
“Come January we could be in a far better position with a good run over the festive period.
“I’ve said we need 70 points-plus, however we get them, we’re going to need 40 points in the second half of the season and we could get a quarter of them in the next four or five games.
“That’s the big challenge for the players to take on board.
“It’s all about points but I have seen the performances get better, certainly the last few home games.
“Tranmere and Macclesfield are going to be top eight at the end of the season and we’ve played well against both. Sutton was a good display too and they are sitting at the top of the league.”
Pools have not been performing badly, not in the last three games anyway, but they must start turning good football into successful results.
Individual howlers cost them at Ebbsfleet and, especially, last week when what appeared to be a 1-0 home win against Macclesfield became a 2-1 home set-back.
“We need to run with that first 84/85 minute-performance but when we have to defend better, a bit better game management,” said Harrison.
“Sometimes you can’t score two, three or four goals, as much as we tried to, no-one can say we weren’t on the front foot, but sometimes you have to see a 1-0 out.
“Top teams don’t always score threes, four and fives, sometimes they have to see out 1-0s.
“Sometimes you have to be professional and take the 1-0, which means in the last five you just do your job, nothing spectacular, just your job.
“We’ve lost last Saturday because of errors of judgement and that’s a kick in the guts.
“It was almost a perfect performance at home, energetic, aggressive, front-foot football, chances.
“Loachy has saved two shots you’d expect him to save, he’s been far busier in games he’s kept us in with outstanding saves he’s probably had no right to make
“But it’s done and gone now, we must learn from it and cut out the mistakes.”