Craig Hignett believes Hartlepool United have said goodbye to League Two’s relegation fight.
Pools moved above Stevenage into 21st after drawing 0-0 at Newport County last night and are now eight points clear of York City and 10 better off than Dagenham & Redbridge.
I’ve always said I was looking up and not over my shoulder.
They have games in hand on all three sides below them and, perhaps just as significantly, on the teams immediately above them, Yeovil, Notts County, Morecambe and Newport.
And while Pools are not mathematically safe and there will be no copmplacency, they could soon open up an unbridgeable gap.
“We’ve been in and around the bottom two for too long but now we have moved up a place and we can keep moving up,” said Hignett.
“I’ve always said I was looking up and not over my shoulder.
“With the lads we’ve got, the form we are in and the quality we are showing, there is only one way we are going to go.
“With the organisation, the confidence that’s about the place, we should be looking up the table and we are.”
Last night’s display was, arguably, as good as any under Hignett, certainly in terms of team shape and solidity.
And the tricky state of a heavily-sanded Rodney Parade pitch did not blunt the attacking ambitions, with Jake Gray, Lewis Hawkins and Luke James all having shots.
“Defensively we were really difficult to play against, we were tough, we closed them down, we were different class,” said Hignett.
“But we got in great positions, attacking-wise, and I think, with a smoother surface we’d have scored two or three.
“Jake Gray got in a few times, so did Lewis Hawkins.”
And Hignett felt Pools had claims for a penalty after Hawkins seemed to be impeded in the box by Janoi Donacien after a superb first-half turn and break, only for referee Simon Hooper to dismiss his protests.
“Hawks said he got clipped,” Hignett told SportMail. “I said to him ‘if you got clipped, why are you not going down?’.
“Hawks thought he could still get the ball over and create a goal, but he was probably too honest by trying to stay on his feet.”
Such was the performance of the central defensive pairing of Matthew Bates and Adam Jackson, Rob Jones was not missed.
The giant central defender remained at home after not shaking off the effects of a heavy blow in Saturday’s win over Dagenham & Redbridge.
But Hignett hopes the 36-year-old may recover in time to play in this weekend’s trip to Crawley Town.
“Rob’s head is still not clear,” said thye manager. “We felt, more as a precation, we wouuld be better off leaving him at home.
“We wanted him to rest properly and try to be right for Saturday.”