Hartlepool United manager Dave Challinor 'expecting the unexpected' against a rejuvenated Torquay United side in National League play-off final
After ending Stockport County’s long unbeaten run last Sunday, Hartlepool United travel to Ashton Gate looking to end Torquay United’s in the National League play-off final.
The Gulls go into the game 14 unbeaten following their 4-2 extra-time win over Notts County in the semi-final at Plainmoor.
A run of two wins in 11 matches to start 2021 – including a 1-0 defeat against Pools – saw Gary Johnson’s side slip from runaway leaders into a real promotion race with the likes of Sutton United and Pools. Sutton just pipped Torquay to the post in the end but they’ve been given another shot via the play-offs.
An injury to influential striker Danny Wright coincided with Torquay’s dip in form and his return saw the side get their season back on track.
"[Wright] has been very important to them this season and they missed him when he was injured,” Challinor told The Mail.
“But they've missed a lot of players. They've missed Kyle Cameron, they've missed Ben Whitfield, Aaron Nemane.
"You could say the same about us where we’ve missed Gary Liddle at the start of the season and we missed Luke Armstrong and Jamie Sterry who didn’t come in until later.
“Both teams have been without important players but in the main they're all back on Sunday. The game will be different to the last two we've played over the season. One has gone each way but hopefully we can win the decider on Sunday if you like.”
Both Challinor and Johnson are no strangers to play-off matches but the Pools boss believes it’s impossible to predict exactly how things will go down in Bristol.
“I expect anything,” he said. “Gary is a really good manager with great experience and has had good success in terms of his CV and promotions.
"The play-offs are what they are and Gary's teams have put plans together to get to the stage where they are now in terms of who they've come up against.
"We expect the unexpected and will look to do what we can to come out on top.”