Six games for Hartlepool United to end dire season on a high
Having taken 11 points from the last 15 in the National League, Hartlepool United's fifth-tier destiny is very much in their own hands.
Fifty points is widely regarded as the benchmark for keeping your head above water at this level.
And as things stand, Pools find themselves just two points short of that mark.
Will it be enough to keep them up this year? Well, seven points separate the bottom four and Pools. And despite the protestations of caretaker Matthew Bates, many Poolies are looking up now, rather than down.
So when will safety be secured, if at all? Here we take a look at the final six episodes of Pools’ rollercoaster first crack at the National League.
Guiseley (h) - Monday, April 2
Bottom of the pile Guiseley are in town today and a win has the potential to move Pools 10 points clear, depending on results elsewhere.
At home, riding the crest of a wave, it’s hard to bet against Pools making it four wins on the bounce. They’ve not done that for more than three years.
Given the position they found themselves in after Bates’ first game in charge it would be an even more remarkable achievement to complete extend the win run to four.
Solihull Moors (h) - Saturday, April 7
Another game that looks like an absolute home banker.
When Pools have played the teams around them of late, and the pressure is on, it seems to have brought the best out in Bates’ men.
Barrow was a prime example of that. They’d just suffered the blow of their gap to the bottom four dropping to zero points, with goal difference the only thing keeping them out of the relegation mix. But Pools still produced the goods, and from a goal behind.
On Friday, against a team just above them int he division, they got the three points. It was less flashy than performances of late, but three points is three points, no matter how you get them.
Against another struggler, this could be meat and drink for Bates’ men.
Sutton United (a) - Saturday, April 14
Pools’ toughest game left on paper.
Sutton are going for automatic promotion and sit just six points behind top-of-the-table Macclesfield Town with a game in hand.
While promotion without the need for the lottery that is the play-offs is a long shot for Sutton, they’ll be fighting right to the end for the right, with the Football League carrot dangling within their reach.
Get two wins from the first two and this is a bonus game really, as Pools will almost certainly be safe.
Leyton Orient (h) - Tuesday, April 17
The O’s season has not quite gone to plan and in many ways has parallels with Pools’.
Both teams sit mid-table in the division and this is likely to be for nothing more than pride.
A very winnable encounter, though. Jonathan Franks and Rhys Oates strikes saw Pools come from behind to claim victory at their place in September.
Torquay United (h) - Saturday, April 21
The final home game of the season and it’d be a shock if Pools still need something this late, the rate they are picking up points.
Torquay will be preparing for life outside the fifth tier by then so it could well be party time at the Vic by this point.
Tranmere Rovers (a) - Saturday, April 28
A few weeks back this looked being another Doncaster final day from last season.
Now it looks like Poolies will be able to enjoy their dressing up without the fear of the drop.
One of the better away days on the calendar, this should really be a league fixture. It isn’t and it won’t be next season either.
While that’s sad, at least Pools will have this kind of game to look forward to (well, kind of), rather than what would have been the daunting prospect of a Blyth Spartans reunion in the National League North.