Former Salford City midfielder Mark Shelton discusses Hartlepool United's 'game plan', 'infectious' mentality and getting to the play-off final once again

Mark Shelton is using his previous play-off final experience to ‘play the game and not to occasion’ when Hartlepool United face Torquay United at Ashton Gate on Sunday (2pm kick-off).

Friday, 18th June 2021, 6:00 am

Shelton started for Pools in the play-off win over Bromley and Sunday’s 1-0 victory at Stockport County to help set-up a promotion final tie with The Gulls.

No Pools fans were allowed to the semi-final at Edgeley Park but tickets have been snapped up for the final in Bristol.

“It felt like it was us lads in the training room versus the whole of Stockport,” Shelton told BBC Radio Tees Sport.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Mark Shelton of Hartlepool United celebrates after Rhys Oates scores his team's first goal during the Vanarama National League Play-Off Semi Final match between Stockport County and Hartlepool at Edgeley Park on June 13, 2021 in Stockport, England. (Photo by Charlotte Tattersall/Getty Images)
Mark Shelton of Hartlepool United celebrates after Rhys Oates scores his team's first goal during the Vanarama National League Play-Off Semi Final match between Stockport County and Hartlepool at Edgeley Park on June 13, 2021 in Stockport, England. (Photo by Charlotte Tattersall/Getty Images)

“For us to go there and win to put us through to the final was a great achievement from everyone and what a day. In football you don’t get many days like that, we were underdogs in that game so to win that and get through to the final was great.

"It gives us the opportunity to play in the final and achieve something special."

Shelton played a key role in the decisive goal at Stockport as he played the ball to Rhys Oates who turned and did the rest to send Pools through.

“I joke in training, our game plan is to just give the ball to Oatesy because that’s all we need at the moment!” Shelton laughed.

"What a player man, for him to come on after not having the best of starts, to come back from that position, which isn’t easy in football, to get back in the picture and have the confidence to go on and do what he’s done, fair play to him. Whatever happens now, he’s done himself proud.”

Shelton is no stranger to winning play-off finals having done so with Salford City against Dave Challinor’s AFC Fylde back in 2019 at Wembley Stadium.

“When I signed here, the goal was to get into the play-offs and we’ve done that now,” added the Pools midfielder.

"Salford was the same sort of mentality where anything but a win was disappointing and that siege mentality to work together and do well is infectious.

"You want to be part of a team who are doing well and going for promotion but there is still one big game to go.”

Pools were beaten 5-0 by Torquay at the start of the campaign but were able to clinch a 1-0 win at Plainmoor back in March.

"When you have a bad result like that it does affect your mood and everything but we have shown that we’re good enough to beat them at their place,” Shelton continued.

"Now we’ve got to go to a neutral ground and do it all again.

“We all know that what we’ve achieved is good and we’re proud of getting this far but we know that if we don’t win on Sunday then we’re still in the National League so nothing changes.

"It’s been a good ride and we’ve had a good season but we’ve still not achieved anything yet. I don’t want to be on the losing side on Sunday thinking what could have been.

"We all know how big of a game it is but you’ve got to play the game and not the occasion.”

A message from the Football Clubs Editor

Our aim is to provide you with the best, most up-to-date and most informative Hartlepool United coverage 365 days a year.

This depth of coverage costs, so to help us maintain the high-quality reporting that you are used to, please consider taking out a subscription to our new sports-only package here.

Your support is much appreciated. Richard Mennear, Football Clubs Editor