Challinor admits concern as Hartlepool United struggle to cope with big game pressure at Sutton
As Sutton United lifted the National League title, Hartlepool United were left wondering what could have been and what their own future holds.
A month prior, Pools led the National League table. Albeit only by a point with teams below them having games in hand but they were considered serious title contenders following a 16 match unbeaten run.
Three defeats in four games later and Dave Challinor’s side are stumbling into the play-offs as they look to regroup and refocus.
Sunday’s 3-0 loss at Sutton exposed Pools for the third time in as many weeks as they struggled to rise to the occasion with the home side consequently securing promotion.
For months, Challinor’s side looked unbeatable and the results reflected that. All of a sudden they now look vulnerable, just when it matters most.
“Of course it’s a concern but it reinforces what I’ve been saying,” the Hartlepool boss told The Mail.
“These games to a degree aren’t about turning up. Not always the best team wins these type of games, they are the teams that best cope with the pressure of the situation that wins them.
"On Sunday, Sutton didn’t make the mistakes we made and that’s something that over the course of the season is the reason why they’re champions and we’re not.
"You can over analyse goals you concede but if you look back at the goals we’ve let in over the past couple of weeks, they’re all from individual errors and you can’t make individual errors and expect to win football matches on a consistent basis.
"You have to learn because you are going to be challenged in different ways than what you’re used to at the back end of the season when you are playing for something.
"We have to remember this feeling and make sure we don’t experience it again in the next couple of weeks because it will be a much more hollow feeling if you lose when your season depends on it.”
Pools end their regular season at home to Weymouth on Saturday (12:30pm kick-off). They can still finish anywhere between third and fifth depending on results elsewhere.
Victory for Pools against The Terras and a draw or defeat for Stockport County at Yeovil Town would see Challinor’s side claim third and a home play-off semi-final.