JOHN Hughes hopes his first victory as manager of Hartlepool United will form the launchpad for the second half of the season.
The Scot, at the seventh attempt, celebrated three points with a magnificent 3-2 win over league leaders Sheffield United on Saturday.
But Hughes is guarded against “false dawns” and says his side must follow up their long-overdue triumph with another success against Preston North End at Victoria Park tomorrow afternoon (kick-off 3pm).
“I’m just hoping this might be the start of something and not a false dawn,” he told SportMail today, a double from Steve Howard and a Ritchie Humphreys effort having sealed the shock weekend win.
“I don’t want to get carried away but we’ll soon find out if it is a new beginning.
“But nothing is a given in this game. We went to the home of the league leaders, who were celebrating 150 years of football at Bramall Lane, and they were meant to win the game hands-down.
“So you can’t now say we should go and beat Preston hands-down, football doesn’t work like that.
“We’ll enjoy this win and hope we can get the same attitude and application tomorrow.
“Hopefully we’ll get confidence and momentum to build on this.”
The win was a first in 23 outings for Pools and saw them move back to within 11 points of safety, although they remain rooted to the foot of League One.
And Hughes went on: “We’ve set a benchmark by beating the leaders.
“We have to have a belief now to say ‘let’s go again’.
“We have to take inspiration from where we are.
“This win was sweet and there were one or two happy boys in that dressing room.
“I’m just delighted for the boys and I hope it gives the whole place a lift.
“Hopefully we’ll see them coming into training with a smile on their face and not feeling sorry for themselves.
“It’s also a fantastic present coming into the new year for the supporters.”
Tomorrow’s opponents were beaten 3-0 at home to Doncaster Rovers at the weekend but were 5-0 victors over Pools earlier in the season.
Hughes will today check on the fitness of Middlesbrough loanee Charlie Wyke who was forced off in the second half after a blow to the ankle.
Wyke apart, it is expected he will keep the same team for the visit of the Lilywhites.
“Charlie took a sore one and it was touch-and-go whether he came out second half,” Hughes explained.
“His foot had swollen up just below the ankle, but he’ll be okay.”
POOLS (probable): Flinders; Richards, Collins, Hartley, Horwood; Walton, Humphreys, Sweeney; Franks, Wyke; Howard. Subs: McHugh, Holden, James, Poole, Baldwin, Austin, Monkhouse