RONNIE Moore has praised the new found toughness in his Hartlepool United side – declaring they are no longer a “soft touch”.
Before the 62-year-old took the manager’s job, Pools were susceptible to collapsing once they had conceded.
Heavy defeats to Port Vale in the cup and Northampton and Burton Albion in the league will live long in the memory.
But since the turn of the year, Moore has instilled added resilience – resulting in four straight wins to push them out of the relegation zone for the first time in five months.
The latest, Saturday’s 2-1 win over a physically commanding Cambridge United, pleased Moore the most.
Moore was delighted to see his side pass their latest “test” with flying colours ahead of a difficult Easter weekend.
“Cambridge was a good test for us but we showed we are now very resilient,” Moore told SportMail.
“We are not a soft touch anymore.
“We’d said beforehand about Cambridge being big and strong, they are a massive side – one lad 5ft 10in and the rest 6ft 1in.
“They boot it for throw ins and long balls but our defending was immense and I couldn’t fault anyone.
“We only had one lapse and they scored from it.
“We have some big lads of our own in there too now and everyone in a blue and white shirt gave their all, which is what we need.
“To score from set-plays means we out-muscled them as well, which was pleasing.”
It has been quite a turnaround, before Moore took charge Pools had won just three times in Sky Bet League Two in the first half of the campaign.
Since then, in his 19 games in the dugout, Pools have managed eight wins, three draws while suffering defeat on eight occasions.
That improved form has seen Pools cut a nine-point gap to safety, to now be third bottom, a point above Tranmere Rovers and two above Cheltenham Town - with seven games to go.
Before taking charge, Moore watched from the stands at the Pirelli Stadium back in early December as Pools were thumped 4-0 by Burton Albion.
The situation was bleak with Pools staring relegation in the face.
Since then, aside from a 3-0 defeat at Shrewsbury, Pools have been much tighter at the back, including a recent run of three straight clean sheets.
The switch to 3-5-2 has reaped dividends and with David Mirfin flanked by Scott Harrison and Dan Jones, Pools have been harder to break down.
Moore hopes that remains the case ahead of Good Friday’s trip to Newport County before another play-off contender, Phil Brown’s Southend United, visit Victoria Park on Easter Monday.
“The back five were strong against Cambridge, Scotty [Harrison] was immense again, won it all and he scored,” added Moore.
“He, for me, was the one - the stand out performer.
“But the defence limited them to very few chances, which shows how we have come on.
“Five at the back really suits us because we have attacking full-backs and three centre-halves in there, with Mirf talking to the two young lads all the time.
“In midfield, the three lads work hard and up top we do too.
“But if we need to change to 4-4-2 then we can do it,” added Moore.