Hartlepool United's players have proved they belong in the Football League, not the National League - Matthew Bates

This Hartlepool United squad belongs in the Football League, not the National League - that's the view of Matthew Bates.

And the Pools boss believes his players have proven that, having played League One Gillingham off the park last week.

Matthew Bates (right) with coach Ross Turnbull (left).

Matthew Bates (right) with coach Ross Turnbull (left).

"The lads proved they are league players," said Bates.

"I told them to go and prove to everyone they do not belong in the National League. I think they did that."

Pools may not have got the win down in Kent but they certainly went some way to proving their doubters wrong - and were rewarded with a replay and a chance of playing in an FA Cup second round against Sutton or Slough.

Bates says the result has done wonders for the confidence in his ranks, especially off the back of three disappointing National League defeats.

"It was a massive result for us," he said.

"It was a real boost to the confidence to go in against a League One side and play better than them and get a result.

"It is just what we needed going back in a big league game.

"It was a good result but it was not something we planned for.

"I never expected to go there and get a result, that doesn't mean I didn't think we could.

"It is typical of football, really. You can go and get results when you least expect it.

"It was an unexpected one, one we were pleased with and gives us confidence we can play against anyone, including league sides, and hold our own."

Despite the obvious buzz around the result last week, which will see the Gills come to the Super 6 Stadium on Wednesday night for the first round replay, Pools have not won a league game for more than a month.

Their last National League victory came against Boreham Wood on October 6.

Bates knows things will come good, although he has stressed the need to get back to winning ways on home turf on Sunday.

"In football you get blips. It is about trying to be consistent and in the main we have been," he said.

"It is about having a consistent run and results-wise we have to get back to where we were a month ago. That starts with Barnet on Sunday."