Eighth in the National League table, with just two losses to their name, it’s fair to say this has been a start to the season few would have predicted for Hartlepool United.
They’ve exceeded expectations at every turn in the sixth tier and while that is a positive it has brought with it an pressure not to fall below the high standards they’ve set for themselves.
And while, in the main, this has been a season of positives for Pools, some issues have arisen, as they have with every side in the league.
Here we take a look at the FIVE challenges facing Matthew Bates almost a third into the fifth tier campaign.
Pools looked a very tired bunch.
So many games, in such a short space of time for such a small squad was always going to bring its own challenges.
Pools have so far stood up well but to the travel and the intensity of the start to life in the National League.
Managing the players is going to be key from now on in for manager Matthew Bates.
LACK OF EXPERIENCE
Pools have a number of players in their ranks who are either playing at National League level for the first time in their career or others who have not played this volume of games.
Take Mark Kitching, for example.
He is a player who is crucial to this side but also one who has not played anywhere near this amount of games in such a short space of time.
Fellow first teamers Niko Muir and Peter Kioso are new to the level and are only just getting their bodies used to the rigours of full-time training.
Ryan Donaldson has not played this volume of games for 18 months. It’s amazing how much this can take its toll.
LACK OF GOALS
Pools have scored just 16 goals in their 14 fifth tier games.
This is the lowest of the top 10 in the division.
While Muir has shown decent form to net four, Luke James has just one.
On the bench the options look limited, too.
Marcus Dinanga has only had two thirds of a game and a few late cameos so far this season to shine. He is yet to score.
Jake Cassidy will not be recalled.
If Pools are to challenge they need to improve in this areas.
INABILITY TO HOLD ON TO A LEAD... AT HOME
On three separate occasions Pools have let a lead at home slip. That’s six points dropped from winning positions on home turf alone.
Hang on to those leads and Pools would be only held off top position on goals scored.
And here is where the problem lies - Pools inability to build a comfortable cushion in games has cost them dear and might well continue to do so.
Few expected this kind of return from 14 games for Pools, even less expected so many positives.
With that expectation has risen, far beyond reality in a lot of ways.
It’s OK to get carried away, but a dose of realism is setting in now. And what Pools need is for their fans to stay level headed and stick with this side, who have their limitations, but are a different prospect to the offerings of 2017/18.