ONSIDE: Pools a step closer to great escape

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IT couldn’t happen could it?

At Christmas - when Santa Claus was barely down the chimney - Hartlepool United were rooted to the foot of League One with just nine points and quickly plummeting towards League Two.

Roll on six weeks and John Hughes’ side are off the foot of the table, have 24 points in the bag and are now just eight points from safety.

It doesn’t sound so many when you say it fast.

But more than that, Pools are five games unbeaten and there is a very real chance that we could actually survive.

Who’d have thought that in deepest mid-winter?

I certainly didn’t.

I don’t think many others did either, and rightly so given the appalling run of form witnessed during the first half of the season - which saw Pools go 22 matches without a win.

Whether this current run of form has come too late, only time will tell, but from the outside looking in there seems a real self-belief within the squad that what seemed like the impossible could actually become a reality.

Fans have gone from booing the players off the park to chanting “we are unbeatable” from the stands.

Remarkable what can happen in the space of a few weeks.

Saturday’s late (or should that be Leyt) show against Leyton Orient epitomised how times have changed.

Pools didn’t look like scoring, and yet within the space of five minutes - courtesy of a Peter Hartley bullet header and a wonderfully composed strike from Luke James - there was hope. Again.

It is the hope that kills you of course.

But, in the coming weeks, Pools play relegation rivals Scunthorpe United and Oldham Athletic away and Colchester United at Victoria Park.

Huge games I’m sure you’ll agree and they will be a great test of the player’s character and bottle.

Real pressure games.

Win and we stand every chance of staying up, lose and it will be curtains.

Here’s hoping six weeks down the line we are still smiling.

- Richard Mennear