HARTLEPOOL United boss John Hughes will be odds-on favourite for February’s manager-of-the-month award after his side enjoyed a 3-0 victory over Crewe Alexandra.
The result – secured thanks to first-half goals from Charlie Wyke and Jonathan Franks and a late strike from Andy Monkhouse – means Pools have won four and drawn two in February, a seven-match unbeaten run in total.
Results elsewhere, however, again conspired against Hughes’ men with the three teams directly above them – Bury, Colchester United and Scunthorpe United – all winning.
Pools are now six points from safety going into Saturday’s trip to Doncaster Rovers.
They had made a nervy start against The Railwaymen and only the intervention of Evan Horwood denied Byron Moore a clear run on goal, the full-back sliding to dispossess on the edge of the penalty area on three minutes.
The hosts did have an early shout for a penalty when James Poole’s close-range blast cannoned into the arm of Mark Ellis but referee Darren Drysdale deemed the block to have been unintentional.
The man in black was again the cause of Pools ire after failing to spot Crewe goalkeeper Steve Phillips handle when vacating his area to challenge with Charlie Wyke on 16 minutes.
Pools were now finding a foothold in the game and Jack Baldwin hammered narrowly wide from distance soon after.
And it came as no surprise when, three minutes shy of the half-hour mark, they found a breakthrough.
Ritchie Humphreys swept play to the left where Evan Horwood worked the ball to Franks, in space 20 yards out.
The forward tore into the area before a hanging a cross to the far post where Baldwin rose to nod into Wyke and he did the rest with a header from just two yards out.
Before play restarted Pools saw midfielder Simon Walton limp from the action with Monkhouse his replacement.
But that loss did nothing to affect their rhythm and by half-time they had deservedly extended their advantage.
James Poole sought to locate the front-running Franks and, while the pass was intercepted by Ellis, the Pools man out-muscled his opponent before digging out a shot from 20 yards which found the bottom corner.
Wyke came within a fingertip of heading a second after the break when glancing a Franks cross towards the bottom corner, Phillips leaping to claw around the upright.
When Crewe failed to clear from the resulting corner Horwood smashed on goal but Phillips was again equal to it.
Franks was enjoying an inspired evening and was inches from netting a goal-of-the-season contender when pinging wide of the top corner from 25 yards.
But Monkhouse made sure of the points in stoppage-time when he smashed home in uncompromising fashion after Phillips had saved from Wyke.