Dealing with pressure, promotion & points targets - Craig Harrison reveals his Hartlepool United ambitions
Flying under the radar.
That’s the phrase goalkeeper Scott Loach uses to describe Hartlepool United’s season so far.
But 15 games in, having lost just once in the last nine in the league, a run which stretches back to August, it’s fair to say that Pools have definitely come to the National League party.
And, as a result, teams are now steadily starting to see Hartlepool, just seven points off the fifth-tier summit, as a very real promotion threat.
With that comes its own pressures.
But it’s nothing that manager Craig Harrison and the Pools squad can’t handle, with the boss insisting it’s business as usual at Victoria Park, ahead of the visit of high-flying Sutton United tomorrow.
“There is no more pressure on us now than there was from day one,” said Harrison.
“I don’t feel any different, nor do the players.”
Harrison, as a man and manager, is someone who thrives off statistical analysis.
You only have to spend a few minutes in his company to realise he loves the numbers side of the game.
With that in mind, Harrison revealed that he, and coaches Matthew Bates and Paul Jenkins, have season, monthly and weekly points targets for the players.
For now, at least, Pools are way short of where the former Boro boys thought they’d be at this stage of the campaign.
ButHarrison believes that, if Pools keep their form, it won’t be too long before they catch up.
“The staff have got a points tally where we want to be at the end of every month,” he said.
“How those points come doesn’t matter, as long as we get them.
“We have a target number of points for this week. As long as we get it, I am happy.
“We are not on target from the start of the season, of course.
“But recently we have averaged around two points per game for the last 10 games.”
One of the most telling themes of the National League season so far has been how tight things are at the top.
No team has yet pulled away from the pack.
And Harrison suspects that’s the way things will stay, right to the business end of the campaign.
“It is tight,” he said of the division, which sees the top 15 teams separated by just nine points.
“I can’t see anyone walking away with it.
“Normally, you have someone at the top where you think they’ll have it wrapped up five or six weeks before the end.
“But this time I think it will be wide open from top spot all the way down the play-off spots until the end.
“We just need to make sure we stay in there – then the last six to eight weeks will be important for us.
“We just need to keep our good run going.”