RONNIE Moore says his “awesome” Hartlepool United players now finally believe they CAN stay up after the 2-0 win over Oxford United.
Victory at the Kassam Stadium was hard-fought but deserved as Pools recorded back-to-back wins for the first time in 13 months.
Goals in either half from Ryan Bird and Neil Austin helped Moore’s side cut the gap to safety to just four points ahead of home matches with Mansfield Town and Cambridge United.
Moore hailed the spirit, workrate and endeavour of his players following last night’s win and says they are now finally believing they can pull off the Great Escape.
“The players are starting to believe now and that is the big thing,” said Moore.
“If they start to believe we can get out of trouble, then we have half a chance.
“The staff have believed for a while, and the fans have, but at least now we can look at it and say it is do-able - no doubt about that.
“We have given ourselves hope and the pleasing thing was getting back to back wins.
“It was disappointing other teams won but the gap is still down to four points and we’d have taken that before kick-off.
“Now it is about what can we do at home?
If they start to believe we can get out of trouble, then we have half a chance.Ronnie Moore
“We have given everybody hope, we need to dig in and dig deep.”
Relegation rivals Tranmere Rovers and Carlisle United also won, while Cheltenham Town picked up a point away, but the gap has still been cut to four points.
Bird scored the opener after 33 minutes before Austin knocked in the rebound from Bird’s penalty miss shortly after the re-start.
Moore admitted his side was hanging on at times against Michael Appleton’s Oxford side, the ball spending most of the second half inside the Pools area.
But his unchanged side have a new-found resilience and determination and they held firm to secure three more points on the road.
They also had to survive NINE minutes of added-on time after referee Patrick Miller was carried from the pitch with an injury to his left knee after being knocked over by Oxford’s George Baldock.
The squad, who arrived back late this morning, were enjoying a day off today before light training tomorrow ahead of the Mansfield match.
Moore added: “The players have earned that day off after the work-rate they have put in.
“We were hanging on a little bit but the players have given everything for the cause and Oxford can’t complain about the result.
“Sheer hard work and determination was the foundation for the win – no doubt.
“We were hanging on a bit [second half] so we changed it and hung on in from there.
“Nine minutes of added-on time was a bit frightening but we got there!”