Matthew Bates’ stock rises as Pools open up relegation zone breathing space

Michael Woods steps forward to score the winner.
Michael Woods steps forward to score the winner.

The takeover champagne might well be on ice at Victoria Park, but that did not stop the players turning up to the party on the pitch last night.

Pools stretched the gap to the bottom four to five points with yet another vital win in their bid to avoid the National League drop.

It was a full debut to remember for Josh Hawkes, who opened the scoring with a long-range effort. Josh Rees then levelled for Bromley on the stroke of half-time before a well-worked ninth goal of the season for Michael Woods sealed all three points.

Wins don’t come much bigger than this.

Bromley are riding the crest of a wave, having sealed their place in the FA Trophy final at Wembley last weekend.

They’re chasing the National League play-offs. Pools, heading into this one, were looking over their shoulders frantically.

But they played with a swagger, a confidence, rarely seen at this club in recent times.

You’d never have know that just two points was the difference between them and the bottom four ahead of kick-off.

Who’d have thought this group of players could produce performances like this?

Consistency has not been absent from Pools this campaign, it’s just been that they’ve been consistently awful during the winter months.

Heading into the biggest spring in this proud club’s history, they are stringing together the kind of performances that make it difficult to imagine them outside the fifth tier any time soon.

And where should the credit lie? The players themselves deserve some praise. They’ve stepped up to the plate in the club’s hour of need. But it is no coincidence that, with Matthew Bates at the helm, things are looking a whole lot rosier.

Just 10 minutes had passed in this one when youngster Hawkes, thrown in from the off by Bates, announced himself on the scene at the Vic.

Finding space 25 yards from goal, the teenager tried his luck from distance and the ball deflected over the head of David Gregory for 1-0.

That strike might have had an element of luck about it, but Pools’ overall performances left nothing to chance.

From front to back, they continued their steady improvement by dominating proceedings for the full 45 minutes.

The impressive Blair Adams came within inches of picking out Rhys Oates in the area and the defender himself went close to netting a second goal, curling just wide from the edge of the area with the outside of his left boot.

Pools were fired a warning shot just before the break when Adam Mekki went close, but Bates’ men were made to pay right on half-time when Scott Loach failed to come for a corner and Rees turned in from inside the six-yard box.

Much the better side, it was a deflating end to an otherwise impressive opening 45 minutes.

Pools struggled to find their earlier fluency post-half-time.

But, with the first real flash of quality in the half, they were in front again. A curled ball in from the left was expertly knocked down by substitute Devante Rodney and Woods steamed in to hammer past Gregory for 2-1. It was no less than the hosts deserved.

A nervy final 25 minutes ensued, with Pools edging further and further into their shell, but, by the same token, the unambitious visitors hardly peppered the home goal.

And, despite not having a takeover to celebrate, Pools did have three points.

And heading into the hectic Easter weekend, Pools have just that bit breathing space they’ve so craved.

The watching Raj Singh and Craig Hignett will have been impressed by what they saw both on the park, and increasingly from the dugout.