NICKY Featherstone has first-hand experience of being relegated from the Football League and has no intention of repeating it with Hartlepool United.
The 26-year-old was part of the Hereford United side relegated from Sky Bet League Two back in the summer of 2012 and the picture is looking equally bleak for Pools this season.
The 4-0 defeat to Burton Albion was the fourth successive loss and 14th overall this season and leaves Pools six-points adrift with a goal difference of minus 24.
But Featherstone is adamant the belief is still with the Pools squad that they can get out of trouble, providing they stick together as a group.
“This is the time when the big characters have to come out,” said Featherstone, who joined the club at the end of October.
“I have been in this position before, being relegated from League Two, and there aren’t many other places you can go.
“It doesn’t just affect the players on the pitch it affects the backroom staff at the club as well, the fans, everyone involved.
“It is not a nice situation to be in but it is only us as a group and a team that can get out of this.
“As hard as it is, we have to be as positive as we can be.
“The belief is still there.
“If we can implement game plans like we did for the first 44 minutes at Burton for longer, then we can give anybody a game.
“There isn’t that much difference between the top and bottom sides in this league and at this level.
“We just need to be positive and that first win – or first result – will perhaps act as a catalyst.
“Anything, just something to spur us on.
“We have that togetherness though,” insisted Goole-born Featherstone.
Sadly, that togetherness was lacking at the Pirelli Stadium at the weekend, with Pools losing comfortably in the end to Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s Burton.
Featherstone admitted the players had no excuses for defeat, adding the squad had enjoyed a good week under caretaker boss Sam Collins at Maiden Castle, in Durham.
The midfielder, who has struggled to stamp his authority on matches in recent matches, said Collins had looked to keep spirits up following the sacking of Paul Murray after just 45 days in charge.
Featherstone, who was Murray’s first signing, added: “Sam has come in and has kept it upbeat.
“It had been a good week in training and we had prepared for the game at Burton as well as anyone.
“We knew everything about Burton and the way we wanted to play.
“For 44 minutes we stuck to the game plan yet one lapse of concentration and we are a goal down.
“We had taken a lot of positives from the first-half and I thought we deserved to be at least level.
“But it is always tricky when you are chasing a game because then they can look to pick you off and we never really dealt with their front two.
“They were playing it into Jacob Blyth and Stuart Beavon played well off him.
“We couldn’t handle them two second-half,” added the former Hull City, Walsall and Scunthorpe United midfielder.