All the talking points as Hartlepool United secure their National League status with win over Aldershot Town

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Hartlepool United secured their National League status with a hard-fought 2-0 win over Aldershot Town on Saturday.

Mani Dieseruvwe scored his 21st league goal of the season from the spot in the 18th minute after the 29-year-old had been brought down by Shots wing-back Ryan Glover and, after Pools survived a sustained spell of pressure in the second half, Tom Parkes put the result beyond doubt when his looping header clipped the crossbar and went in following David Ferguson's corner four minutes from time.

Although York and Woking, among others, can still catch Pools, one of York and Woking's two remaining games is against each other, meaning at least one of them is guaranteed to finish below Kevin Phillips' side.

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Pools impressed despite blustery conditions in the first half at the Suit Direct Stadium on Saturday but, although the home side had the wind at their back after the break, found things more difficult in the second period.

Tom Parkes capped another towering display with his first goal in blue and white as Pools beat Aldershot on Saturday.Tom Parkes capped another towering display with his first goal in blue and white as Pools beat Aldershot on Saturday.
Tom Parkes capped another towering display with his first goal in blue and white as Pools beat Aldershot on Saturday.

Despite arriving in the North East without a win in their last four, the Shots were occupying the last remaining play-off place and needed at least a point to maintain their position in the top seven and so it was little surprise to see that Tommy Widdrington's side were much-improved after the restart.

However, the formidable defensive pairing of Tom Parkes and Luke Waterfall impressed again, with Pete Jameson also making some sharp stops behind them, before Parkes was rewarded for another towering display his first Pools goal to put the game to bed and ensure Kevin Phillips and his side can start planning for next season.

Here are a look at some of the main talking points after Pools made it back-to-back home wins at the Suit Direct Stadium:

The character of the team reflects well on Kevin Phillips

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The pre-Christmas Pools would likely have struggled to deal with the Aldershot onslaught after the break but, despite the occasional murmurings from fans who felt the home side were inviting pressure, Phillips has instilled a grit and determination that reflects well on him as a manager and coach.

Unlike during the challenging period between September and John Askey's departure, Pools look up for and unafraid of the fight and, having kept the National League's leading scorer Paul McCallum as well as Halifax's in-form frontman Rob Harker quiet in recent weeks, the hosts limited Lorent Tolaj and Josh Stokes, who have 36 league goals between them, to a couple of snapshots from the edge of the box.

Pools could well have folded after their humbling 7-1 defeat at local rivals Gateshead, which Phillips admitted was one of the worst days of his life, but instead the response could hardly have been better.

Devante Rodney's added time equaliser on Easter Monday might have denied them three wins in a row but seven points from the last nine, especially given that their humiliation at the Heed left them looking over their shoulders towards the relegation zone, is an excellent return.

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It seems as though Phillips struck the right balance between blasting the players for that miserable evening's work and picking them back up off the canvas and helping to restore belief.

With one eye now turning to next season, Pools will need to maintain their newfound mental strength if they're serious about building on a promising end to this campaign and achieving success.

Another home clean sheet

The experienced pair seem to relish playing against physical strikers, something that used to strike terror into the hearts of previous back lines, and were at their dominant best again on Saturday.

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Louis Stephenson, who adds pace to the defense, looks to have a bright future and was voted as the fans' man-of-the-match for the second game running while David Ferguson has gone from strength-to-strength since Parkes and Waterfall signed for the club.

While Phillips will still be looking to make one or two defensive additions over the summer, with Waterfall contracted for next season, Parkes seemingly set to stay as well and Dan Dodds soon to return to the fray, Pools already have the makings of a solid rearguard ahead of next term.

Pete Jameson impresses again

Prior to his return to the side against Southend, most supporters might have expected goalkeeper Pete Jameson to be one of those leaving the club in the summer.

The 30-year-old, who is on loan from Harrogate but professed his desire to earn a new deal in the North East, is doing all he can to make sure he remains at the Suit Direct Stadium next season.

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The former Darlington and York goalkeeper made a number of fine saves, particularly when twice thwarting Josh Stokes in quick succession at the start of the second half.

Jameson hasn't conceded a goal at the Suit Direct Stadium in 270 minutes of football, plus added time, since he replaced Joel Dixon last month and was unfortunate not to secure another clean sheet in trips to Eastleigh, when he was magnificent, and Rochdale.

The stopper has of course been helped by the excellent form of Parkes and Waterfall in front of him but, as well as making some impressive saves, has looked calm and commanding in his area, collecting crosses and kicking well.

A slight change in midfield pays dividends

Kevin Phillips made a subtle tactical adjustment in midfield, moving Tom Crawford into a slightly more advanced role and leaving Nicky Featherstone alone to screen the back line.

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That allowed Crawford and Callum Cooke to press the Shots midfield, while Fetaherstone's reading of the game offered the back four some protection.

Pools didn't exactly dominate the midfield battle, but the changes paid dividends and the Shots trio were unable to dictate the tempo as they might have hoped.

However, the consensus remains that Pools are still lacking some legs in midfield and a powerful runner to support the current crop is likely to be on the shopping list this summer.

The kids are alright

It was a memorable day for the Pools academy, and in particular Campbell Darcy and Alfie Steel, who made their league debuts as late substitutes.

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Midfield Max Storey was also on the bench while Louis Stephenson, who signed his first professional deal alongside Darcy in December, has proven that the club are producing talent capable of stepping up to the first team.

A successful academy is often a sign of a healthy club as a whole and the Pools youth system seems to be working more effectively at the moment than at any other time in recent memory, which bodes well for the future.

With Pools now sure of their National League status and the squad depleted through injuries, Phillips might be tempted to show even more trust in his youngsters in the remaining three games of the campaign.

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