Hartlepool United midfielder Mark Shelton on stepping up to the mark in League Two ahead of Exeter City clash

Hartlepool United midfielder Mark Shelton has admitted there has been no option but to step up to the plate this season following promotion back to League Two.

Wednesday, 22nd September 2021, 12:39 pm

Pools earned their spot back in the Football League the hard way last season winning the National League promotion final in a penalty shootout which meant they had just seven weeks to turnaround and be ready for the League Two campaign.

To say it was a frantic summer at Victoria Park would be an understatement but Pools have transitioned to life back in the league well with 13 points from their opening eight games of the season as Dave Challinor’s side sit sixth in the League Two table.

And Shelton, who has limited Football League experience with Salford City back in 2019, believes his side are adjusting well to their new surroundings.

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Hartlepool United midfielder Mark Shelton has made a solid start to life back in League Two (Photo by Charlotte Tattersall/Getty Images)

“I would have backed us to do well,” admitted Shelton.

“You do question things in pre-season and things around whether the team that got promoted from the National League would be up to this standard and I think you can say we definitely have been.

“I’ve played a few games in League Two before but you think it’s going to be more of a step up than you imagine because there are big teams with big grounds, big followings and big money as well so you don’t have a choice but to step up really.

“If you don’t, then there’s no loyalty in football, someone else will come in and do your job. I’m glad to have held our own and in the games we’ve played, we’ve been the better team.”

Hartlepool United returned to the Football League in dramatic style in the National League Promotion Final (Photo by Harry Trump/Getty Images)

Pools host Exeter City on Saturday looking to continue their impeccable home form with a fifth league win in a row – form which they built up in last year’s National League campaign.

Three points could see Challinor’s side move up to second in the League Two table should results elsewhere go in their favour.

And Shelton believes that kind of form has allowed Pools to head into every game now with the confidence they can take all three points regardless of who the opposition is.

Shelton told The Mail: “It’s similar to last year when we were going into games thinking we’re going to be the better team and when we aren’t at our best, it’s hard because we’re not used to it after the previous season we’ve had.

“It’s a good thing to have, though, you don’t want to get complacent and it’s disappointing when things don’t go your way so we’re in a good place really.”

One thing which Shelton is revelling in is the return of fans to stadiums.

Challinor’s side were starved of rejoicing with supporters last season but the Pools faithful are more than making up for it this term packing out Victoria Park on a regular basis with just under 1,000 making the trip to Oldham last weekend.

And Shelton is confident it has had a positive impact on the players.

“It’s fine margins home and away but it helps having the fans back in and getting those results over the line. Having a similar team to last season with a few additions, we’ve looked comfortable.”

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