JOHN Hughes admits Hartlepool United will probably have to win their final six matches to avoid relegation to League Two.
That is the enormity of the task facing his side as they prepare for tomorrow’s visit of MK Dons (kick-off 3pm).
Pools are six points from safety heading into the Easter weekend with a trip to Stevenage to follow on Monday.
But Hughes is clinging to the hope that football has proven itself to throw up all manner of surprises, and Pools escaping the drop zone would certainly register as a seismic shock.
“We have to go and try to win the last six games – and I think we might have to,” the Pools boss told SportMail today.
“I don’t think for one moment the boys have given up on it.
“We just need to keep them spirited and believing in themselves.
“We’re still giving ourselves a chance.
“The players have the opportunity to grab that chance, it’s up to them.
“There are a lot of strange results at this time of the season and with a little bit of lady luck anything can happen.
“Stranger things have happened in football.”
The Dons have seen their play-off ambitions fade since the clubs last met in December, the hosts 1-0 winners that day.
They are currently in 13th position, some 11 points shy of sixth place.
But Hughes still holds Karl Robinson’s men in the highest regard.
“I’m surprised that MK Dons aren’t up there,” he said.
“We went down there and tried to play football but just could not get out of our own half.
“But they were far superior in terms of their football ability.
“That will come into our thinking tomorrow.
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“We’ll also have to think about the weather and the conditions with Gateshead playing there during the week.
“The surface isn’t conducive to a great passing style of football.
“But the minimum I want to see is fight, desire and a bit of passion, do that and the fans will get right behind us I’m sure.”