Hartlepool United manager Dave Challinor not giving up hope in National League title race with Torquay United, Sutton and Stockport County
It’s a four horse race for the National League title and Hartlepool United are the rank outsiders.
Monday’s defeat at Bromley left Pools sitting fourth in the table, six points behind leaders Torquay United with four games remaining.
Sutton United occupy second spot, two points ahead of Pools while Stockport County are a point clear in third.
It will be a big ask for Hartlepool to claim a first ever league title from here but manager Dave Challinor intends to keep the dream alive, for the time being at least.
"[The title] is not gone but if we’d won the game on Monday then we know that Stockport and Torquay would be playing each other so something would have to give there,” said the Pools boss ahead of Saturday’s match at home to Maidenhead United.
“Torquay have got themselves in a position where if they win their next two games against Bromley and Stockport then they’ll really fancy themselves to win the title.
"Even if they beat Bromley and draw at Stockport they’ll have a good chance. From our perspective, we needed to make sure that game at Sutton [May, 22] was a defining one and we’ve not allowed ourselves to do that based on the results.
"It is what it is and I hope there will be twists and turns between now and the end of the season. From our perspective, it’s about winning the next one and ticking it off.
"Hopefully we win the one after and then crossing our fingers that when we’re at Aldershot and Torquay play Stockport, something significant happens and gives us another opportunity.”
While Sutton have won just three of their last nine league games, Pools, Stockport and Torquay have all been in fine form over the past couple of months.
Even a 16 game unbeaten run for Hartlepool – the longest of any side in the division this season – wasn’t enough to see them climb up the table as their rivals kept the pace alongside them.
Now Challinor feels a more realistic challenge for his side is to claim a top three place.
“We set a target with 12 games to go and I said publicly where I thought we needed to be in terms of a minimum number of points that was going to be required to win the league,” he added. "I don’t think that total has moved a whole lot.”
“We shared a minimum points total amongst the staff and the players to finish in the top three and that potentially has gone up a little bit because of the runs ourselves, Stockport and Torquay have had.
“We can still achieve what we want to achieve in terms of a points total, we’ve got to try and win our next four games, get 82 points and see where we finish.
"If we get 82 points then we’ll definitely be in the top three or we’d be incredibly unlucky not to be. Whether it’s enough to see us as champions is probably in the balance.”