JOHN Hughes will demand that his Hartlepool United players “come out swinging” when they take on Walsall tomorrow (kick-off 3pm).
The Pools boss insists there must be a reaction to the 3-0 defeat at Oldham Athletic, a performance he readily labels “the worst since I came here”.
That result means Pools head into the final seven games of the campaign seven points from safety.
Hughes believes his side will have to embark on another seven-match unbeaten run – just as they did over January and February – if they are to stand any chance of escaping demotion to the fourth-tier.
“On reflection Tuesday was the worst we’ve been since I came here,” the Scot told SportMail today.
“You can relate it to other sports.
“If you go into a boxing ring and you don’t punch back then you’ll come off second best.
“Because of that they have to come out swinging tomorrow.
“On Tuesday we were second best all over the pitch.
“There was an acceptance to getting beat – and I thought we’d come a long way.
“We need to put a performance on now and I have a sneaky feeling I will get a right good reaction from them.
“We still have a chance of staying in the league but we might have to win every game until the end of the season.
“Oldham might yet prove the best thing that happened to us because there has to be a reaction.
“We might have to go seven unbeaten and get another 17 points from 21.”
It was that acceptance of defeat which still angered Hughes when he came to preview the visit of The
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They are on the cusp of a play-off berth and will be hoping for a victory which could take them into the top six.
And Hughes says his men will not stand a chance of matching their opponents should their approach be the same as Tuesday night at Boundary Park.
“If you’re right in your head and lead your life properly then there is no reason you should not be as fit, as quick and as strong as your opponent,” he said.
“If a boxer goes into a ring and hasn’t prepared properly then it’s the loneliest place in the world.
“If you go in and you’ve trained like a world champion then he’ll say ‘bring it on, I’m ready for a scrap’.
“There is no excuse – if you’re a professional footballer then you should be ready.
“You have to be the winner, you have to win your fight against your man.”