Hartlepool United boss Craig Hignett reckons his players have the talent within their ranks to really achieve something in League Two this season.
But, having again let a lead at the Northern Gas & Power Stadium slip against one of the division’s high-flyers in Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Crawley Town, the gaffer thinks belief is the only thing standing in the way of Pools and a place at the top end of the fourth tier table.
“If they have belief, they will do things this year,” said Hignett. “We need to have that belief.
“It’s not about just being safe and hanging around in mid-table for us. I believe we can do something this season.”
Despite Lewis Alessandra’s opportunist first-half strike, following Nathan Thomas’s costly penalty miss, Pools were pegged back by James Collins’ spot-kick in the closing stages.
Only a brilliant, last-ditch tackle by ex-Sunderland U21 player Scott Harrison then denied Collins a late winner.
And despite missing out on a first home win in six this season, a run which even stretches back to the end of last season and April’s 2-1 win over York City, Pools are actually also unbeaten in six.
Despite the disappointment, that’s something that pleases Hignett. “We remain unbeaten and it shows we can play against play-off teams and not lose,” he said.
“If someone was going to win it, it was going to be us.
“Our final third was a bit sloppy and we had chances to snatch and missed them, but we could have lost it.
“It was like a few games here, we look like we are going to win then we don’t. Do we get a lead and get scared? When you go in front you want to protect it and want to get in and do the things that gave you the lead.”
Goalkeeper Adam Bartlett, given his chance as No 1 Trevor Carson is away with Northern Ireland, said: “It was a frustrating day. They weren’t hurting us, passing it at times to no real affect and I felt we were good enough to see it out.
“It was a tame game, after the start we had we let them back into it. First-half they were on the front foot and getting half-chances.
“Game management there was that little going on second-half, but if we had kept our shape and concentration we could have come off with a win.
“I didn’t have a save to make second-half, it was quiet. I remember looking at the clock and seeing 15 minutes to go and knowing we were comfortable. They get back into it and then it could have gone either way.
“Scott’s challenge was a surreal moment. The lad whips a shot at the corner and it comes back across goal, it went in slow motion. I saw him take it down, he’s four yards out, I’ve had time to look across to the linesman to see if the flag is up. It isn’t and I turn back and Scotty is there.
“It’s unbelievable defending as it’s easy to give up in those circumstances when it’s an empty net. It earned us a point. In the end. we come off with a point and were lucky at the end.”
Bartlet conceded six at Stevenage in his last outing, back on September 3, and he added: “I would have loved a clean sheet to help the team to three points.
“It was a way to get Stevenage out of the way.
“Since then we’ve never looked back, it’s been a turning point. We have hardly conceded since then, kept clean sheets and tightened up.
“Defensively we have been better – it’s no wake-up call as we started the season good and steady, but a game like that means we knuckle down and regroup.
“If it takes a 6-1 battering for that to happen, then it’s unfortunate I was in goal that day, but we have come through it well.”
Hartlepool Utd: Bartlett, Richards, Nsiala, Harrison, Carroll, Laurent, Deverdics (Green 31), Hawkins, Alessandra, Amond (Heardman 90), Thomas, Green (Paynter 82). Subs not used: Pollock, Orrell, Martin, Dudzinski. Booked: Carroll, Harrison. Goal: Alessandra 12.
Crawley Town: Morris, Young, Connolly, McNerney, Blackman (Arthur 57), Boldewijn, Smith, Clifford, Djalo, Banton (Bawling 57), Collins. Subs not used: Davey, Mersin, Tajbakhsh, Pappoe. Booked: Blackman, Clifford. Goal: Collins 74 pen. Att: 3,693. Ref: Robert Jones (England).