Matthew Bates will unshackle his players for the biggest game in Hartlepool United’s history by sending them out at Cheltenham with the order to attack.
The 30-year-old, who heads the interim management team alongside Billy Paynter, Stuart Parnaby and Ian Gallagher, knows Pools must win at Whaddon Road if they are to have a chance of avoiding relegation to the National League (kick-off 3pm).
They are two of our attacking threats and we’ll need them tomorrowMATTHEW BATES
Pools are two points behind Newport County and four behind the Robins.
Any one of the three clubs could join Leyton Orient in falling through the League Two trapdoor and the permutations are endless.
However, there is one certainty – Pools need to win and potentially, score more than one goal for the first time in 10 matches.
“We do need to win, that’s what we’ll be setting up for,” said Bates, who says the responsibility rests with the whole team, not just the front men. “It’s not just the flair players, it’s everyone.
“We need to score goals, and we’ve touched on that this week, and we need to try to get as many bodies forward as we possibly can. You can only win by scoring.
“But we also need to look at keeping a clean sheet, that’s equally important.”
Bates and his coaching team are looking to infuse the entire team with belief, but admits the ‘flair players’ could be the key to tomorrow’s outcome.
Two of the sides most gifted footballers, Nathan Thomas and Lewis Alessandra, both on nine goals, have looked pale shadows of their previous selves in recent weeks under previous boss Dave Jones.
“What’s gone is gone, we are now looking forward, we are a mini league and need to win two games,” Bates told SportMail. “They are two of our attacking threats and we’ll need them tomorrow.
“I’ll try to give them as much freedom to play as possible.
“That’s what they need and what they will be looking for. They will be important men.”
The match will be just as huge to the hosts, who need a draw to avoid an instant return to the National League.
While Pools require a maximum haul, one point will guarantee the Robins survival.
With a tough finale to come at Portsmouth on the final afternoon of the season, Cheltenham will be desperate to avoid defeat and that could make them nervous opponents.
“They are in a dogfight like us,” said Bates. “They are not going to roll over.
“Cheltenham are only four points above us, there’s not much between us.
“It’s going to be a fight, we’ve watched them play, their pitch is not great.
“It will be a fight and we’ve got to fight harder than them to get the points, if we do that we’ve got a chance.
“They are a physical side who like to play long balls.
“We’ve watched them, we know what to expect, and we’ll have a plan for it.”