Hartlepool Utd v Doncaster: Boss Bates urges Pools to have no fears in mega survival match
Matthew Bates insists Hartlepool United cannot be weighed down with fear when they take to the field to face Doncaster Rovers.
Pools tackle the title-chasers in the final League Two match of the season at the Northern Gas & Power Stadium tomorrow evening (kick-off 5.30pm).
And, if it all goes horribly wrong, it could be the club’s last game in the Football League.
Pools have to beat Darren Ferguson’s team in front of the Sky Sports cameras and hope third-bottom rivals Newport County – two points above Pools – draw or lose at home to Notts County.
The gravity of the occasion is clear, with the club’s unbroken 96-year membership of the Football League dependent on the scorelines at the Vic and Rodney Parade.
Interim Pools boss Bates said: “We’ve tried not to talk about the severity of the situation.
“I don’t think that helps – they know themselves, they don’t need us to tell them.
“We just want them to play with no fear and I think they did that at Cheltenham last week.
“There is no point in putting fear into them.
“I said last week that there have been no motivational speeches, no crisis meetings – our attitude has just been to get them ready to play.
“That performance at Cheltenham, compared to the one the week before, was remarkable really.
“Everything we asked of them they did – second balls, being aggressive, everything. They’ve taken on board all we’ve wanted them to do.
“It showed what we can do and I’m more confident now than before that we can beat Doncaster. That is the truth
“The players showed the fight, passion and desire and we have to show it again.”
Bates reported how buoyant the atmosphere has been inside the Vic and says he would have been worried had there been any hint of despondency.
“There really is a positive attitude to the place,” he said.
“It’s a bubbly dressing room. It really is. Some may disagree, but that’s how it has to be.
“The result last week was not great, but the players have been lifted by the performance.
“There has been no moping about – we would not allow that anyway.
“It’s about being as upbeat as possible.”
Tomorrow’s task would be hard enough if Pools were tackling mid-table nothing-to-play-for opposition.
But the degree of difficulty has been magnified by the fact Doncaster arrive in town looking to win the championship.
Rovers looked shoo-ins for the trophy just a month ago with a six-point lead, effectively seven given their colossal goal difference.
However, since sealing a return to League One, they have hit something of a brick wall.
“Doncaster will be a tough one,” said Bates. “We’ve watched them and they are beatable.
“We were level with them down down at their place before they scored at the end.
“They aren’t on a great run, but they’ll come here to try to win the league on Sky, so they are fighting, but we are fighting doubly hard to stay in the league.”