Hartlepool United have got the character and quality to be in the League Two promotion fight, according to Lewis Alessandra.
But Saturday’s goalscorer admits they need to cut out the point-costing errors, otherwise they’ll be staring over their shoulders rather than aiming for the stars.
As things stand Pools, who sit 13th in the fourth tier table, are only three points off the play-off spots, which since day one this season has been the target set within the dressing room and the dugout at the Northern Gas & Power Stadium.
But after 13 games they are also only four points above Barnet, who occupy the second of the relegation places.
It’s a precarious position, admits Alessandra, who netted his second goal of the season in Saturday’s 3-2 defeat at Carlisle.
But it’s one that can be turned around, with a few positive tweaks.
Although he does fear that if Pools don’t get their act together soon, with a hectic festive period on the horizon, they might have a few unnecessary worries.
“In a different world with minor tweaks we would be challenging in the promotion slots”, said the forward.
“We should at least be in the play-offs with the way we have been playing.
“The frustrating thing is that I don’t think we are too far away.
“We need to start cutting out the errors.
“We need to start making the right decisions in the right areas.
“If we can do that then we will be fine this season.
“The worry, of course, is that we don’t start making these decisions it might be too late.”
It was individual errors that ended up being so costly for Pools at Brunton Park.
And while it is easy to point the finger, Alessandra believes as a squad Pools have to improve.
But while some may be wondering whether Craig Hignett’s men have the character to turn disappointing draws and defeats into deserved wins, Alessandra is in no doubt.
“This is one of the best changing rooms I have ever been in,” said the summer signing from Rochdale.
“Every player is singing off the same hymn sheet. There are no lazy people in there.
“Even like your supposed flair player like Nath (Nathan Thomas) is working for the team. You’d expect him to be a luxury but he is not and never will be that for Hartlepool.
“I would never question any of the lads character or temperament.
“We have the right mindset to turn our season from a one of regret to a one of positives.”
Reflecting back on the game, in which Alessandra and Padraig Amond’s goals were cancelled out by Jabo Ibehre, Danny Grainger and Michael Raynes, the 27-year-old admits he was disappointed and frustrated with the way things paned out at the weekend.
“As a team we are really disappointed,” he said.
“I thought we were the better team. There was only ever one team going to win it, or so we thought.
“We work for 20 plus minutes on set pieces in training, so to concede two it is really disappointing.
“We kept getting ourselves back in the game. That’s the most frustrating part.
“We could have dealt with all of their goals.
“We played some good stuff at times and worked hard but they got themselves in front and showed character to protect it.”
Many see a red card in a game as a positive. But quite often the supposed boost can turn out to be a hindrance for the opposition.
Pools suffered from that after Shaun Miller’s red midway through the second 45. Alessandra said: “We maybe found it more difficult when they went to 10.
“We had to try and play around them when they sat in.
“We probably played too many tippy, tappy passes around them and put too many balls in the box that they found easy to deal with.
“It maybe hindered us.
“I was trying to create something, so were the other lads, and at times it felt like we were having to thread the ball through the eye of a needle.
“We have got enough to break them down, though. We showed that with the goals. That is the most frustrating and disappointing part to all of this.”
After all of that Pools were close to grabbing a point late on when Billy Paynter saw a perfectly legitimate goal chalked off by the officials, with the ball deemed to have crossed the line before finding the veteran frontman.
Alessandra, who was the provider, was baffled. He said: “I pull it back and I’m adamant it didn’t go out.
“The linesman is 60 or 70 yards away and he said it did go out. Even the goalkeeper said to me ‘I’ve got lucky there’. That was another frustrating thing.
“I’m sure the linesman didn’t do it deliberately but he must have good eyes to have seen that ball, never mind judge whether it had gone out. I suppose you have to have good eyes to do his job.”