HARTLEPOOL United face a “cup final” showdown with relegation rivals Bury tonight (kick off 7.45pm).
That is the opinion of boss Neale Cooper who admits that defeat is simply not an option at Gigg Lane.
Kevin Blackwell’s Shakers are the only club with a worse League One record than Pools this season.
Cooper, however, knows that would change with a third straight loss and instead it would be his side occupying bottom spot.
That is why the Scot believes tonight’s game could be a “defining” moment for himself and his team.
“It’s a cup final tonight,” Cooper told SportMail.
“Losing is not an option, it’s huge.
“This could be a defining game for us.
“Yes, they’re struggling too, but forget about them, this is about Hartlepool United and what we do and what team turns up.”
Pools are without a win in 10 in the league and Saturday’s 1-0 defeat to Crawley Town saw them slip six points from safety.
Cooper accepts that confidence has taken a hammering in recent weeks, but he has urged his players to take more responsibility when they cross the white line.
“They have to be brave enough and be more positive – when there’s 50,000 baying for blood, that’s pressure,” he said.
“I’m trying my best for them and supporting them too.
“But they’ve got to show more.
“In our position it’s down to confidence and players who should be winning games for us are struggling.
“It’s very hard at the moment but we have to try and lift each other.
“They have to lift the staff and we have to lift them.”
SEE Tuesday’s Mail for full story