MICHAEL Duckworth knows the Hartlepool United squad are playing for their careers with just 11 games left to avoid relegation from the league.
The straight-talking right-back insists the atmosphere remains “good” inside the camp but admits the mood has “changed dramatically” in recent weeks with Pools losing four out of their last five games.
The mood is still good but you are not happy when you are not winning games.Michael Duckworth
Pools are in a perilous position, eight points from safety with less than two months of the campaign remaining.
And Duckworth has left his teammates in no doubt as to the consequences if the Sky Bet League Two side fall out of the league pyramid.
“We are all playing for our futures, our careers,” Duckworth told SportMail.
“This is our job at the end of the day and the mood has changed dramatically in recent weeks, but we are still very much together.
“That is important and there hasn’t been any divides in the camp.
“The mood is still good but you are not happy when you are not winning games.
“In that respect, it is not a nice place to be but we are still together and will continue to do so.
“If we can grind out results then hopefully we will get closer to safety and stay up.”
Duckworth was speaking ahead of tomorrow’s trip to Morecambe, the first of back-to-back away games, with a long midweek trip to Oxford United to come next Tuesday.
Pools haven’t won away from Victoria Park since October and have failed to keep a clean sheet in 22 attempts on their travels.
With the games counting down fast, Duckworth knows it is now or never.
“Every game is massive now and we have been saying it for the past four or five weeks,” added Duckworth, who was dropped for the defeat to Burton Albion and is hoping to return tomorrow.
“We need to pick up points as soon as possible because if we don’t we are going to go down.
“The lads know we have to start winning games.
“But you just have to take every game as it comes and the next one is always the most important.
“Our away form hasn’t been great and we haven’t kept a clean sheet in more than a year.
“It has to start somewhere – and hopefully that can be tomorrow.
“It can play on your mind before games but once the whistle goes you just have to get on with it.”
Pools will be out for revenge against Morecambe tomorrow, the Shrimps beating Ronnie Moore’s side 2-0 at The Vic at the end of December.
A result - and performance - which left Moore raging with his players.
Duckworth admits professional pride will be at the forefront of their minds tomorrow, as they look to avoid another beating by Jim Bentley’s side.
“Morecambe at home was a really disappointing result,” added the former Bradford Park Avenue defender.
“The lads don’t like to get beat twice off the same team so will be looking to make amends.
“We have enough to beat them but it depends on who turns up.”