Nicky Featherstone reveals the TWO key issues standing in Hartlepool United’s way as they bid to return to the Football League

Nicky Featherstone contests a header with Barnet's Cheye Alexander during the Vanarama National League match between Hartlepool United and Barnet at Victoria Park, Hartlepool on Sunday 18th November 2018. (Credit: Mark Fletcher | MI News & Sport Ltd)'�MI News & Sport Ltd'Tel: +44 7752 571576'e-mail: markf@mediaimage.co.uk'Address: 1 Victoria Grove, Stockton on Tees, TS19 7EL
Nicky Featherstone contests a header with Barnet's Cheye Alexander during the Vanarama National League match between Hartlepool United and Barnet at Victoria Park, Hartlepool on Sunday 18th November 2018. (Credit: Mark Fletcher | MI News & Sport Ltd)'�MI News & Sport Ltd'Tel: +44 7752 571576'e-mail: markf@mediaimage.co.uk'Address: 1 Victoria Grove, Stockton on Tees, TS19 7EL

Nicky Featherstone has revealed his thoughts on why the National League has become a graveyard for a whole host of former Football League clubs.

Hartlepool United face a real uphill task to maintain play-off push with six points now separating Matthew Bates’ men and the top seven.

And Featherstone is of the belief that travel and a quick turnaround in games are just two of the roadblocks clubs like Hartlepool have to overcome as they bid to get out of the National League.

“This is a tough league to get out of for a variety of reasons and the travel and quick turnaround are tow of those factors,” said the midfielder, who is in line to start in the centre for Pools at Dover Athletic’s Crabble tomorrow.

“But at the end of the day we are here to play football and that’s what, as footballers, we all want to do. So there are no complaints.

“The lads prefer it when the games come thick and fast, especially when you’re struggling.

“It is important that we go through recovery. The journey will be long but it’s not something we are not used to.”

Pools travelled down to Dover this morning on the back of a ‘so near, yet so far’ performance against Gillingham in the FA Cup this week.

Having seen out the four minutes of injury time with a 2-1 lead they succumbed to the League One side six minutes into added time. Pools went on to lose 4-3 in extra time.

While it was a bitter body blow for Bates’ outfit, Featherstone believes Pools can take confidence from their performance.

“We were disappointed with the result in the end. I think we limited a side in a higher division to very few chances and for the most part defended well,” said Featherstone.

“It was just a moment of madness that cost us.

“Mags thought a Gillingham player was going to score and his instinct was to throw the hand up. He has held his hands up - these things happen.

“The only disappointment of the whole thing was the start of extra time. To lose two goals is what really cost us.”

Featherstone continued: “Looking back over the two games we should have gone through.

“Maybe we will look back at those two games with some pride.

“A lot of the lads have played at League One level and you get more time on the ball so it maybe suited us.

“It was there to be won and for whatever reason it didn’t work out for us.”

Pools have not won a league game since October 6, but in the midst of their abject National League form, they have put in three promising FA Cup shows.

Featherstone believes it’s now time for Pools to take that form into the fifth tier.

“It is the same squad of players who started the season - we have not changed,” he said.

“We went on an unbeaten run then and we can do it again.

“I actually think we are looking a bit more threatening now. We have created chances in the last few.

“We had a spell where we were leaking goals and struggling to score, now we definitely feel we have more of a threat for the opposition.

“Even after four or five games without a win it is easy to see the players are still working hard for each other.

“We have got a chance on Saturday - we feel we are all still together and behind the manager.

“We want to put things right, put a run together.

“We have Saturday then Tuesday, Saturday next week so to me, that’s plenty of time to put right the wrongs of the last month.”

While Pools may see this weekend as the perfect opportunity to get their season back on track against the division’s bottom side, Featherstone understands the opposition might well be thinking the same thing.

“We have to take this as an opportunity to bounce back,” he said.

“We go into any game thinking we can beat anyone in this league.

“They are struggling but will see us as an opportunity to put things right, too.”