Pools boss John Hughes remains upbeat ahead of crunch Oldham clash

John Hughes (centre) with Russ Green (left) and Andy Collett sit in the stands during the second half of the game against Coventry City. Picture by FRANK REID
John Hughes (centre) with Russ Green (left) and Andy Collett sit in the stands during the second half of the game against Coventry City. Picture by FRANK REID
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JOHN Hughes has reminded people that Hartlepool United were a “laughing stock” at Christmas – insisting they can still beat the drop to League Two.

Pools are now four without victory – and a goal – heading into tomorrow’s all-important clash at Oldham Athletic.

Hughes’ men were beaten 1-0 at Coventry City on Saturday with the home side’s goal arriving amid controversy.

The Pools boss believed Cody McDonald had fouled Peter Hartley prior to netting the winning effort and, following half-time words with referee Fred Graham, he watched the second half from the stands.

But Hughes remains in positive mood today as he prepares for the game against the side who reside just one place above them in the League One relegation zone.

The gap to safety stands at six points with eight matches remaining, and the Scot is quick to point out that Pools had already been written off at the turn of the year.

“Remember we were down and out at Christmas,” he said when asked if the current winless run was of concern.

“We were a laughing stock back then but we put pride back into the club.

“Tomorrow is a huge game and I just hope come April we are still there and still saying that we have huge games, that will mean we’re in with a chance.

“If you said to me at Christmas time that we would still be in there fighting and putting pride back in the club then they would have locked you up in the loony bin.

“That just shows how much of a turnaround there has been.

“Even in defeat you take it on the chin and come back.

“If the boys keep showing that outlook and style of football, while adding a bit more in the final third, we have a chance.”

Hughes felt that Saturday’s performance at the Ricoh Arena charted the progress his side has made under his care.

In his first game in charge they were trounced 5-0 by the same opposition, and he went on: “Last time they did us for five, so that was much improved.

“But the players have grown together in this battle. They have shown leadership qualities, it’s commendable, it really is.

“You see some of them doing things that inspires and I felt we had some real good performances out there.

“I felt we were the better football side. Any neutral watching would be asking how Hartlepool are where we are. We had our share of chances.

“I felt we acquitted ourselves very well and gave as good as we got.

“I’m so proud, even in defeat, to be manager.

“We played the game the right way on a sticky pitch and Coventry knew they were in a game.”