Hartlepool United v Ebbsfleet United: John Askey hoping break has served Pools well as they prepare for National League return

Hartlepool United’s break from National League action came at a good time – of that there is no doubt. But their return against Ebbsfleet United this afternoon brings with it added significance to John Askey’s side.
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For the majority in blue and white, the two week hiatus came at the ideal moment for Hartlepool.

Having lost four consecutive games in all competitions Pools have been in a tailspin for the most part of the last month and beyond – a run which has seen them drop to 14th in the National League table as well as being unceremoniously dumped out of the FA Cup in its qualifying stages.

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Performances have been patchy to say the least, with defensive errors continuing to plague Askey’s side – while off-field issues have also played their part – it’s been a period to forget.

Hartlepool United return to National League action against Ebbsfleet United. (Photo: Mark Fletcher | MI News)Hartlepool United return to National League action against Ebbsfleet United. (Photo: Mark Fletcher | MI News)
Hartlepool United return to National League action against Ebbsfleet United. (Photo: Mark Fletcher | MI News)

Again then, for the majority in blue and white, the reprieve of a Hartlepool-less weekend seven days ago felt somewhat refreshing.

And refreshing is exactly what Askey and his side have been doing over the last fortnight as they look to put the first steps in place to rebuilding their league campaign before it threatens to tail off even further.

"We’ve had a good break,” confessed Askey.

"We’ve, mainly, used the time to refresh everybody – I think we needed that. Hopefully it’s come at a good time for everybody, myself included. But we’ve had plenty of time to work on how we’re going to play so we can look to kick-start the season again.”

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Askey added: “I’ve given the lads a little bit of time off and then we’ve had time to work on things. But it’s all about the result. Everybody is feeling a little bit more positive this week but, as we all know, it’s the result which gets the confidence back and get everybody talking about the club again.”

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At this stage Pools are 14th in the National League table, five points off a play-off spot and six above the relegation zone. When Askey's side travel to AFC Fylde for their opening game in December we will be reaching the halfway stage of the season. It’s imperative Pools can find some kind of form following this break.

Their first opportunity to do that comes this afternoon against an Ebbsfleet side who have won just one of their last 10 league games and have just one away win to their name this season since their promotion to the National League.

Beyond that, Pools then travel to a struggling York City before a trip to bottom-placed Kidderminster. It feels like a significant period.

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“It’s difficult to know [what to expect],” Askey said of Ebbsfleet.

"They’ve just brought in three players, players who are probably better than what they’ve had, so it’ll be a difficult one to judge – they’ll be a different team from what they were the last time they played.

"But it’s a great opportunity for us. If we can be at it then it can get us going and give everyone a bit of confidence. Hopefully that will be the case.”

*Hartlepool will be wearing a special Remembrance Day kit for this afternoon’s fixture with shirts to be auctioned off after the game and proceeds going to the Royal British Legion.