HARTLEPOOL United’s players can see light at the end of the tunnel – and not just because they have reached the 50-point mark.
Pools can’t wait to get back to just playing weekends after a gruelling run of fixtures.
Their unlucky 1-0 home defeat by Leyton Orient was their fifth Tuesday night outing in a row and their last of the season.
Pools have played 19 games in 11 weeks and Ritchie Humphreys admits a sequence of weekend games, starting with a trip to revitalised Walsall, is a welcome sight for Mick Wadsworth’s squad.
“It’s been a tough old haul,” said Humphreys, who has been assisting Wadsworth with the coaching as well as still continuing his playing duties.
“We’ve had a Tuesday game every week for the last five weeks and for those who have played every single game it has been a hard run.
“There have been a lot of high-tempo games against some very good sides.
“But we’ve come out of it pretty well and we’ve put ourselves into a great position in the league.
“Obviously the lads are good professionals and have looked after themselves.
“But it is good there is now a bit of time to recover and hopefully we’ll finish the season well.”
Pools sit proudly in eighth position and were unfortunate not to be going into Saturday’s match at Walsall without a point or more from their midweek tussle with in-form Leyton Orient.
The final scoreline shows the EastEnders, who are one place above Wadsworth’s side, emerged with all three points but Pools more than matched them.
“It was a good performance even if it wasn’t a good result,” said Humphreys.
“Leyton Orient have been on a fantastic run but we had more than enough openings against them to get something from the match.
“I think if we’d have scored we could have gone on to nick it.
“We had a couple of opportunities in the first half before they scored.
“They did well possession-wise but in the second half we were a lot stronger and we had our chances.”
Despite the set-back, Pools still go into the clash at the Bescot Stadium in happy mood.
Pools will need to be at their best - the Saddlers are fighting for their lives at the bottom of League One.
And they are making a pretty good fist of it under new boss Dean Smith.
Walsall looked like dead men walking under Chris Hutchings but rookie boss Smith has led a revival.
Smith, who is in charge at the Bescot on until the summer, has guided his side to four wins and seven draws in 16 League One games since taking the reins from Hutchings.
Walsall even moved out of the relegation zone for the first time since October after beating Southampton at the start of the month.
But they dropped back into the bottom four following a home defeat, ironically, against Pools’ mid-week conquerors, Leyton Orient.
“Dean’s a guy I know pretty well,” said Humphreys. “They have been in and around the bottom of the table for a long time.
“But you often see sides pick up results after a change of manager.
“And Dean’s done a great job so far.”