HARTLEPOOL United have 13 days to save the club’s Football League life.
That is all that is left of a season which is spiralling out of control and heading to the Sky Bet Conference.
Pools have three games to go – starting with today’s critical 19th vs 18th confrontation at Victoria Park against fellow relegation battlers Morecambe.
It’s not quite a must-win game but it is certainly a must-not lose match – a draw would keep Pools out of the drop zone.
Pools boss Colin Cooper looked a broken man when he came out to face the media, briefly, after Saturday’s 3-0 defeat.
So do his players, who looked decidely second best at the Pirelli Stadium.
But the manager says only he and the players can fix things in the remaining 270 minutes of the campaign, starting with this afternoon’s clash with the Shrimps.
“I will carry the can for the performances,” said the 47-year-old. “But the players have a challenge.
“It’s a two-week challenge to do an unselfish act and do something for Hartlepool United. We all have to. And that’s all we need to say.
“We have a three-game challenge and the challenge is to get more points than the other teams below us in the league.
“If you don’t, then you regret it for the rest of your life.”
Challenge was the operative word from Cooper in his two-minute, 10 second stint at his press conference.
He only briefly mentioned Saturday’s defeat to the Brewers, a passing reference to Marlon Harewood’s gilt-edged chance in the 21st minute when the score was 0-0.
Cooper refused to take questions from reporters, just answering questions from Hartlepool United’s media manager Mark Simpson, but, even then, he still would not talk about the side’s display.
“I’m not going to make an assessment (about the Burton game),” he said. “What I’m going to say is we have a very important game on Monday – that’s as much as I’m going to say.”
Pools suffered an early setback on Saturday when top scorer Luke James was forced off after stumbling on a sprinkler head and twisting his ankle.
If that wasn’t bad enough, it got worse as Harewood failed with a glorious opportunity after good work by James Poole and Andy Monkhouse.
What little hope and belief, Pools looked like easy prey.
Billy Kee’s expert finish on 28 minutes set the Brewers on the way and superb second-half strikes by Jimmy Phillips and Lee Bell sealed their fate.
Pools had a few corners and the occasional cross but very little else.
You knew had bad it had become when the fans in Burton’s popular end chanted “Are you Tamworth in disguise?”.
On this showing, Tamworth United could sue.
Burton Albion: Lyness, Edwards, Sharps, Cansdell-Sherriff (Holness 82), McFadzean, MacDonald, Bell, Weir (Palmer 83), Phillips, Kee (Symes 87), Alexander. Subs Not Used: Hemmings, Knowles, Gray, Hall. Goals: Kee 28, Phillips 58, Bell 85.
Hartlepool: Rafferty, Duckworth, Collins, Harrison, Holden, Walton, Walker, Franks (Barmby 68), Poole (Compton 73), Monkhouse, James (Harewood 16). Subs Not Used: Flinders, Richards, Jones, Oliver.
Att: 2,558 Ref: Michael Bull (Essex).