Halifax Courier journalist gives the lowdown on Hartlepool United's next opponents and suggests the Shaymen are the most in-form side in the country

Things are not about to get any easier for Kevin Phillips and Hartlepool United as they prepare to welcome an in-form Halifax Town on Friday.
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Pools suffered their worst defeat in 28 years in midweek, shipping six second half goals in a 7-1 drubbing at the hands of Gateshead, and the Shaymen surely wouldn't have been their first choice of opposition to try and bounce back against.

Chris Millington's side failed to win in six games after beating Altrincham on Boxing Day and appeared to have slipped out of play-off contention but have since roared back into the promotion picture, winning seven of their last eight.

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The two sides could hardly be heading into the game in more differing circumstances, with Halifax enjoying their best spell of the season while Pools are winless in their last five and still reeling from their midweek humiliation.

Halifax frontman Rob Harker, who failed to score during a loan spell with Pools in 2020 when he was still a teenager, is set to return to the Suit Direct on Friday.Halifax frontman Rob Harker, who failed to score during a loan spell with Pools in 2020 when he was still a teenager, is set to return to the Suit Direct on Friday.
Halifax frontman Rob Harker, who failed to score during a loan spell with Pools in 2020 when he was still a teenager, is set to return to the Suit Direct on Friday.

Most recently, the Shaymen made Chesterfield wait before being crowned National League champions when they beat the runaway league leaders 4-2 last Wednesday and journalist Tom Scargill, who covers the club for the Halifax Courier, is full of praise for the side following their impressive recent run.

"If there's a more in-form team in the country then I'd like to have watched them," he said.

"Town have been fantastic, winning 7 of their last 8 and only losing to high-flying Bromley in that run.

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"Their most recent win, against champions Chesterfield, was their most impressive as they produced a magnificent performance.

"The shackles seem to have been lifted off the side a little over the last few weeks and it's resulted in a terrific run of wins, taking 21 points from the last 24 available."

Much like Pools boss Kevin Phillips, Halifax manager Chris Millington's managerial career is still in its infancy, although Scargill has been impressed since he was promoted from assistant in May 2022.

Despite a difficult start, the 56-year-old recovered to lead Halifax to an 11th placed finish last season as well as Wembley glory after the Shaymen beat Gateshead 1-0 to lift the FA Trophy and the former Oldham assistant has built on those solid foundations this term.

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While his education as assistant to now-Barrow boss Pete Wild had not always led to the most attractive football, Scargill hailed Millington as a shrewd recruiter and has tipped the team to break into the top seven.

He said: "Considering the budget he's been working with, I think he's done a fantastic job.

"This season they have been there or thereabouts all campaign but have really put their foot on the accelerator in recent weeks.

"His recruitment record is very good and he has built a small but competitive squad which has survived a seemingly constant battle with injuries to be right in the mix for the promotion race.

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"There seems to be a genuine feeling of optimism that the team can get into the top seven and then, who knows?"

Pools, whose defensive structure was almost non-existent during a dire second half against Gateshead, will need to regroup in order to keep frontman Rob Harker, who Poolies will remember from a barren loan spell back in 2020, quiet.

Now 24, the 6'2'' striker has scored three goals in his last two games but the Shaymen's biggest threat could come from behind him, with attacking midfielder Florent Hoti enjoying a productive campaign and mercurial forward Andrew Oluwabori excelling in recent weeks.

From a Pools point of view, the Good Friday encounter feels like an important game for a plethora of reasons, not least the fact that the midweek thrashing leaves them low on confidence and still looking over their shoulders towards the relegation zone.

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Phillips probably couldn't have chosen a more challenging opponent but Pools will have to put the Gateshead debacle to the back of their mind and attempt to rip up the form book in pursuit of what would be an all-important three points on Friday.

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