Matthew Bates discusses Hartlepool United's promotion hopes, current form and the National League challenges ahead

Hartlepool United manager Matthew Bates is certain his side will be in the title race at the business end of the National League season.

But, that will only be the case if they keep up their current "promotion" form.

Matthew Bates.

Matthew Bates.

Bates' men were held at the Super 6 Stadium on Tuesday night by Barrow on a largely frustrating night for Pools.

While it may not have been the three points that would have seen the side muscle in on the fifth tier's top four, it did see them rise to a historical high of sixth in this division, kept them within three points of the summit and took their start to one loss in nine at the campaign start.

"I said to the lads after the game that although we are disappointed we have lost one in nine. If you keep that kind of form up, that we have shown in the first fifth of the season, across four fifths I am not frightened to say we will be up there. It is promotion form," said Bates, whose side take on Solihull Moors down in the Midlands this weekend.

"It is about consistency but I know we can be better. We want to get better.

Ryan Donaldson.

Ryan Donaldson.

"We are still a new group of players really. Of course we know we are not quite as new as we were a month ago but we are improving week by week and there is still improvement there.

"I have said it all along - we want consistency in this league. It is key.

"There is a long way to go. Injuries will come, busy schedules will come in December and January, suspensions will come, it is how we deal with that."

Bates has been relaxed about the league standings so far this season, despite the fact many a fan is getting excited about it all.

Pools look primed and ready to mount a promotion push this season, but Bates knows there is still a long way to go at this level before anything is decided.

"Everyone in this league understands how this league works in terms of results. People will look and see that Hartlepool have lost one in nine," he said after the disappointment of Barrow.

"Leyton Orient have won again, Harrogate are unbeaten, though, there are a lot of good sides at this level.

"I said 10 games is when I would look at the table but I will be totally honest and say it is more likely to be 20 or 25 games when you can see what the league table looks like properly.

"It is then you can see that you need so many points from so many games, so many wins and things like that.

"We keep our feet on the ground. We have a good group here who will not get carried away with anything.

"A lot of the lads have played at this level and know what it is all about."

Previous manager Craig Harrison was very much about weekly and monthly targets last season - each game had a value in terms of points, so too the week, month and so on.

These results were monitored and fed back to players and staff. The main problem with the whole thing was that Pools were constantly playing catch up in 2017/18 after a shocker of a start to the campaign.

Bates is not keen on that kind of management.

"I have had some managers who have targets. I look at it game by game, week by week," said Bates.

"What do you do when you put them and don't meet them?

"Can we pick up three points here, six in a week - that kind of thing is the way I look at it.

"The players manage their own expectations, they manage their own dressing room. Me and Ged (McNamee) coach them and I pick the team but they understand what it takes to get up there.
"I want to be up in the play offs comes the last five, 10 games of the season."