JOHN Hughes is clinging to the hope that Hartlepool United can take their survival fight down to the final match of the season – but first they must win at Tranmere Rovers tomorrow (kick-off 3pm).
The Pools boss accepts that his side – five points adrift of safety with three matches remaining – will almost certainly have to win all of those games to stand any chance of avoiding the drop.
Even if they did see out the campaign on a winning note, however, Oldham Athletic need just five points from five matches to confirm Pools’ relegation.
But after a week in which everything has gone their way in terms of results, Hughes is hoping for a similarly profitable weekend.
“The result on Saturday (2-0 win over Bury) has just made it so much better going into the weekend,” the Scot told SportMail.
“I’m not much of a stat-man and I prefer to concentrate on us - if you’re winning matches then nothing else should matter is my theory.
“But we’re at a stage where we need other results and they have gone our way this week.
“I’ve looked at the stats, though, and we’re not doing too bad compared to the others.
“I know we didn’t score in eight but we still picked up a few draws in that time.
“So we’re still in there and that’s all we can ask at this stage.”
The majority of observers believed Pools’ fate would have been sealed long before the final three weeks of the season.
Hughes inherited a side without a win in 16 matches when he arrived at the club in November, and he went on: “When I came in we were down and out.
“But we’ve put some pride back in and we’ve got a chance.
“We want to take it to the last game, that’s our aim, if we do that then you never know.”
That Pools - the league’s lowest scorers and until last weekend without a goal in 12 hours - could feasibly take their fight until the campaign finale at Crawley Town, is a point of credit, argues the manager.
“To win a league you have to score about 80 goals,” said Hughes, “Your top scorer should have 25 and the guy after that well into double figures.
“My top scorer (Andy Monkhouse) has five and we’ve only scored 35 – it paints a picture.
“Even despite all of that we still have a chance.
“That’s why you have to give credit to the boys for still being in there because we don’t have that 25-goal striker.”