Hartlepool United won’t give up on play-offs despite defeat at Oxford United

DARK NIGHT: Scott Flinders dejected after Oxford score their goal. Picture by FRANK REID
DARK NIGHT: Scott Flinders dejected after Oxford score their goal. Picture by FRANK REID

HARTLEPOOL United aren’t giving up on the play-offs just yet.

That is the message from 27-year-old goalkeeper Scott Flinders who said manager Colin Cooper has challenged his side to pick up as many wins as possible from the remaining eight games.

Pools lost out to Oxford United at a wet Kassam Stadium last night thanks to a 77th-minute header from David Connolly, who was allowed a free run at a David Hunt free-kick.

And while the Pools stopper said the team was “bitterly disappointed” to lose, he said the belief is still in the squad this can be a successful season.

Defeat last night means Pools remain 10th in Sky Bet League Two five points off seventh-placed Plymouth Argyle and now 10 off sixth-placed Oxford United after 38 matches.

That gap could, of course, increase further, depending on how Plymouth get on away at Accrington this afternoon.

Last night’s trip to Oxford marked the start of another busy week at the Clarence Road club though, with back-to-back home fixtures against Mansfield Town [Tuesday] followed by the visit of Cheltenham Town to the Vic on Saturday.

Flinders insists attention has quickly shifted to the visit of the Stags, with Cooper’s men looking to bounce straight back.

“We are not giving up on the play-offs yet,” said a defiant Flinders.

“There are still plenty of points to play for and the challenge is to pick up as many points between now and the end of the season.

“All we can do is look at the games on Saturday and see where we are.

“The most important thing for us now though is Tuesday’s game and with eight games to go the gaffer has given us a clear message.

“Out of those eight, how many can we win?

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“That is the challenge to us and our focus is now on Mansfield Tuesday night.”

While the 6ft 4ins stopper was trying to remain positive, he admitted defeat last night was a heavy blow.

Flinders added: “Everybody was bitterly disappointed how we finished the game.

“But saying that we could have got something right at the end through Luke [James] but it just didn’t go our way what with Si [Walton] getting sent off and then conceding the goal straight after.

“We were disappointed to concede from a set piece as well, especially because there was nothing in the game really.

“We are disappointed but we move on.”

Walton’s second-half red card contributed to the 1-0 defeat last night and Flinders said the absence of his Yorkshire teammate in Tuesday’s match will be a big loss.

Flinders said: “Simon has been brilliant all season.

“It will be a big blow but hopefully there are other lads in the squad that can step up to the mark.”