HARTLEPOOL United must show more guts in their battle against relegation.
That was the warning from frustrated boss Paul Murray with a basement battle with York City to come at Victoria Park on Saturday.
Pools remain rooted to the foot of Sky Bet League Two after the 1-0 defeat to Southend United at Roots Hall – their seventh away defeat and 11th in total.
“We had to get on it more, to force something to happen,” he said.
“Players who want to get a grip of the ball will stand out.
“You’ve got to have big characters out there, for sure – it’s a high-pressure situation.
“We have a week without a Tuesday game, and it gives us a chance to work hard on the training ground and look at some issues from the match.”
Saturday’s game at Roots Hall was a poor quality affair, with a 65th-minute strike from David Worrall enough to separate the sides.
“It left Murray questioning his players’ character as they bid to avoid relegation from the Football League.
Murray said: “There were some positive parts in there, but in the second half we needed to want the ball and work the ball better – pass, move and show some guts really.”
The Cumbrian has been in the job less than a month but he is the second Pools boss to question the squad’s character, or lack of it.
Caretaker boss Sam Collins said the team was lacking leaders during his spell in charge, a point Murray has also been quick to raise.
Murray added: “I’m still learning about these players and we had a discussion in the dressing room as we don’t know all about the players and they don’t know about each other yet.
“What have I learned?
“I know we need bigger characters, players who want the ball who want to do something, to grab the ball and the game by the scruff of the neck.
“It’s about mindset – this is a long way and a big journey but forget that.
“It is about coming to perform and to get a result.”
With the game still goalless, Murray made a bold decision to make a double substitution after just 56 minutes.
On came Jordan Richards and Scott Fenwick in place of Sidney Schmeltz and Matt Crooks, who’d both struggled to impact the match, as the Pools manager looked to take all three points back north.
It didn’t pay off though as Southend scored eight minutes later after Pools gifted them the lead.
The Shrimpers then comfortably saw out the rest of the match.
But Murray wants to see the players show the same decisiveness as him.
Murray added: “I felt we could have got something, that’s why I made the changes.
“I felt going to 4-4-2 we could get crosses in and get at them and we later brought Marlon [Harewood] on.
“Southend hadn’t been going well at home.
“The crowd booed them off a bit at half-time and I felt we could get something, but it wasn’t to be.”
SOUTHEND: Bentley, Thompson, Bolger, Prosser, White, Worrall, Leonard, Timlin, Hurst, Corr, Payne. Subs not used: Atkinson, Clifford, Coulthirst, Layne, P Smith, Deegan, Matsuzaka.
Booked: Timlin. Goal: Worrall 65
HARTLEPOOL: Flinders, Duckworth, Collins, Harrison, Austin, Franks, Featherstone, Walker, Schmeltz (Richards 56), Wyke (Harewood 79), Crooks (Fenwick 56). Subs not used: Holden, Bates, Hawkins, Jones. Booked: Austin, Fenwick
Att: 5,436. Ref: Pat Miller (Bedfordshire)