HARTLEPOOL United’s players need to stop talking about winning matches and start doing it, says on-loan defender David Mirfin.
Defeat to Burton Albion left Pools eight points adrift at the foot of Sky Bet League Two with just 11 games of the season left.
And with back-to-back away trips to Morecambe and Oxford United to come, Scunthorpe United loanee Mirfin knows the situation has reached breaking point.
Mirfin told SportMail: “We are running out of time now in terms of saying ‘if we can get points from this game and that game’.
“We have to start doing what we are saying we are going to do and pick up results. We need to do that going into these two away games.”
That’s no easy task, given Pools haven’t kept a clean sheet away from home all season and have managed just two wins on the road all campaign.
Mirfin added: “The clean sheet issue away from home isn’t on my mind, personally.
“As a defender, any game you go into, you know if you have kept a clean sheet then you have done your job.
“That just gives such a good base for the lads in front of us, knowing they don’t have to worry about what is happening behind.
“It makes a big difference.”
The 29-year-old has recently extended his stay at Victoria Park until the end of the season from Scunthorpe, who won promotion from League Two last season.
The experienced centre-back made 49 appearances during the Iron’s charge to League One and has more than 400 senior games under his belt.
Mirfin firmly believes there is little to separate sides in the division in terms of quality – he insists it comes down to mental toughness and experience.
Against Burton he was marshalling a defence that included 21-year-old Scott Harrison and Dan Jones, 20, who is back in the side at left -back.
Mirfin enjoyed his role as elder statesman but admits the younger squad members find themselves on a “steep learning curve” this campaign.
“I am enjoying my time here,” added Sheffield-born Mirfin. “It is weird because there really isn’t a lot between the team I played in last year that got promoted and this side.
“In terms of quality of players, there is little to separate the sides.
“It is about concentrating for the full 90 minutes because squad-wise, there isn’t a massive difference.
“It is down to mentality and perhaps experience too and we had that last year at Scunthorpe.
“You learn to grind out results – that is what it is about.
“That is number one thing to learn as a player but you only get that through playing the game.
“For the young lads here, it is a steep learning curve for them but it is part and parcel of being in the league.”
LEWIS Hawkins has returned to Hartlepool United after his loan spell at Spennymoor Town.
Pools sent the 21-year-old to high-flying Evo-Stik First Division North club on a month’s loan at the start of February.
Hawkins, who still trained with Pools during his spell away, made three appearances for the Moors.
The Middlesbrough-born player was used by Sam Collins during his spell in caretaker charge earlier in the season.
He has made four starts and three sub appearances for Pools so far this campaign but given the arrival of several new faces at Victoria Park, boss Ronnie Moore allowed him to go out on loan to get some game-time.