Dave Challinor confident despite admitting uncertainty over Hartlepool United's lack of play-off experience
Hartlepool United may lack play-off experience but manager Dave Challinor has the ‘utmost faith’ his players can deliver when they face Bromley on Sunday (2:30pm kick-off).
It’s Pools’ first play-off match since the League One play-off final defeat to Sheffield Wednesday 16 years ago.
And for many of Hartlepool’s young squad of players, it will be their first taste of play-off action when they host Bromley at Victoria Park.
Out of Pools’ regular starters, only Gary Liddle (Carlisle United, 2017) and Mark Shelton (Salford City, 2019) have prior play-off match experience at National League level or above.
Timi Odusina (AFC Fylde), Tom Crawford (Notts County), Ryan Donaldson (Cambridge United) and Zaine Francis-Angol (AFC Fylde) have also featured in National League play-off squads before.
For the rest of the Hartlepool players, this is a new situation with the club’s season on the line.
Manager Dave Challinor highlighted the lack of ‘big game’ experienced players in his squad as a potential cause for concern following the 3-0 defeat at Sutton United last month.
The side have since responded with an impressive 4-0 win at Weymouth last Saturday but the Pools boss remains unsure as to how his players will react come Sunday.
“You’ll find out on the day how players are going to react to the situation,” he told The Mail.
“You can never have enough experience when it comes to big games like this. It allows you to take things in your stride a little bit and make things easier where you can draw from past experiences to get you through situations.
"Without having those past experiences, you’re never going to be able to draw on that safely in those moments.
“These are games we all want to be involved in and if you’re a player who wants to progress and play as high as possible in your career, you’ve got to be able to be able to perform in an atmosphere where there is more on the line and that will be the case on Sunday.
"I’m confident we can do that and I have the utmost faith in our players and our squad that we can go and get a result on Sunday.”
Fortunately, Challinor is no stranger to the play-offs having competed in them nine times previously throughout his footballing career as he looks to guide Hartlepool to a Football League return.
“I’ve been spoiled and lucky to be involved in so many big games at the back end of most seasons I’ve had as a manager,” he added.
“From a club perspective, we have a new group that haven’t been together for a long time and the atmosphere on Saturday [against Weymouth] and the sense of occasion they got from supporters being in the ground will tell them how important it is and potentially how important it could be.
"It’s something you have to embrace and harness because it probably does have more meaning than it does at other football clubs based on what has happened. That’s something that won’t hold us back and will only spur us on further.”