Dave Challinor praises Hartlepool United's progress following clean sheets against National League promotion rivals Torquay United, Wrexham, Sutton, Notts County and Stockport

Hartlepool United manager Dave Challinor has praised the progress his side have made over the past few months as they’ve turned into genuine promotion contenders in the National League.

Saturday’s 1-0 win at Torquay United saw Pools draw level with the league leaders, who were 14 points clear of them back in December.

The Gulls also beat Challinor’s side 5-0 at Victoria Park earlier in the season, a result the side took a while to get over before finally turning their form around going into 2021.

Hartlepool have won nine and drawn two of their last 13 National League matches and, themselves aside, have played each of the top six sides in the division in that time.

Hartlepool United drew level on points with Torquay United following a 1-0 win at Plainmoor on Saturday.

They beat Stockport County 4-0 and claimed 1-0 victories against Notts County, Sutton United and now Torquay as well as picking up a goalless draw at Wrexham.

No goals conceded and 13 points out of a possible 15 against the sides around them in the league bodes well going into the final stretch of games.

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"We’ve come on an awful lot,” Challinor told The Mail.

“We had a couple of stings that really hurt us earlier in the season, Torquay at home being the big one.

"We’re getting better and players are developing and it comes down to them. We’ve changed our shape a little bit and Jamie Sterry has been a really, really excellent addition for us defensively in terms of what he gives us.

"Johno [Ryan Johnson] has continued to develop, [Lewis] Cass has done a great job, Timi [Odusina] has been good and we’ve got Lidds [Gary Liddle] back now who is a big plus for us.

"Even Fergie [David Ferguson], whose main strengths are going forward, he’s a better defender than he backs himself to be and he’s been showing that.

"That unit has been excellent and their job is made easier by what is in front of them and at the top end of the pitch.

"We want to be a pressing team who get on the front foot and keep the ball away from our goal as much as possible so everyone has played their part.”

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