Matthew Bates sets sights on National League heights - but knows Pools' home form is key
Hartlepool United's promotion ambitions may be defined by their home form - that's the view of boss Matthew Bates.
This evening Harrogate Town come to Victoria Park as Pools look to build on the positives of their opening day draw at Maidstone United.
Pools kicked off their debut campaign in the National League with defeat on home turf last season, which continued on from a poor run of form in the Football League.
It was also a sign of things to come.
Pools won seven on home turf, losing 10 and drawing six in 2017/18 in the league. They had a better record away from the Vic under Craig Harrison and Bates.
The manager knows that has to change this season, if Pools are to achieve their aims.
Publicly few aims have been documented but behind the scenes the players, staff and those at the top harbour hopes of a top seven finish, although the club’s financial future is far from dependant on that.
“Our home form has not been good enough. We need to improve that if we are to challenge,” said Bates.
“I feel that we will with the new players and the freshness at the club.
“There possibly was a fear in the past.
“We need to get a good run at home, at any stage.
“I understand why the fans have got on the players’ back in the past.
“What we need to do is get wins at home and then if we lose a few the fans will stick with us.”
Pools were backed by a vocal travelling pack on Saturday and Bates is hoping for more of the same tonight.
Two home games in a week gives his players the perfect opportunity to get off on the right foot this campaign.
Bates knows the fans will play their part.
“It is surprising (season ticket sales) but with the owner doing the right things and the players we have brought in I think the fans can see things are turning around,” he said.
“They want to be a part of it, see a good season and support the club.
“I don’t think we expected that many, though, so it is credit to the fans.”
There were positives for Bates to take from the Liam Noble-inspired Maidstone performance.
The former defender knows it’s his job to get the best out of his players this season, especially after the club flattered to deceive at this level last.
“It is down to me to get this squad ready for football matches and be up challenging,” he said.
“I know what the owner wants in terms of targets and I am comfortable with that.
“I know where I need to be and I know where I think this squad should be.
“It is a credit to the football club for getting that level of player in. It makes my job harder because it is difficult to select a team.
“But it has given us a more challenging group of players that we feel can go further than we thought we would within our budget.”
On the injury front Pools have a clean bill of health, with every player coming through Saturday unscathed - that despite the conditions, in which heat and the surface played their part.