JOHN Hughes says the possibility of saving Hartlepool United from relegation would eclipse the achievement of a promotion campaign.
But the manager concedes Pools will need to produce “promotion form” between now and the end of the season if they’re to escape the drop.
Hughes’ men have done just that in recent weeks and Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Swindon Town was their eighth point from 12 on the road.
At Victoria Park they ended a five-month wait for a home victory last week and tomorrow they entertain second-from-bottom Portsmouth knowing victory would take them above their rivals.
And Hughes, while still focusing on each game as they come, does admit that to beat demotion to the fourth tier would be some feat.
“If we can turn this around and stay in this division then that would be better than a promotion,” he told SportMail.
“But it has to be a fight until the end of the season, we cannot feel sorry for ourselves.
“We don’t walk about with kid gloves on and hide from the situation - we bring it on and take it on.
“If you cannot handle it, don’t put the strip on.
“We might not be the best football team but we can be the hardest-working and that was evident on Saturday.
“Let’s not get carried away though, this keeps momentum going and keeps confidence high.
“Now we’ve got to go again.”
Pools emerged with the point at the weekend thank to substitute Andy Monkhouse’s 74th-minute effort, cancelling out Simon Ferry’s first-half opener.
And Hughes reflected: “We talk about spirit and determination and we showed some real character to come back from a goal behind.
“As a manager you don’t like to single players out, so I praise them all.
“It keeps the spirit and the run going.
“We believed we could go there and get something.
“I said at half-time that we couldn’t afford to concede and if that was the case we would get something – I fully believed it and the players listened.
“We got stronger in the game as it went on and deserved the goal.”