IT’S the hope that kills you.
Jeff Stelling summed up the current feeling among Hartlepool United supporters on Soccer Saturday after a hard-fought, battling but deserved win over Morecambe.
What a difference a week makesPools writer Richard Mennear
And one that could prove vital in the ongoing battle against relegation.
What a difference a week makes hey?
Pools were down and out after the 1-0 defeat to Burton Albion, a late goal, a hammer-blow to the morale and confidence of the players.
Fast forward seven days and Ronnie Moore’s side produced one of the most complete away performances you’ll see all season.
And yes, finally, an away win.
Fans had waited five months for it and 23 games since the last clean sheet away from Victoria Park - incredible statistics that Moore will be glad to hear the back of.
Victory was built on a solid foundation at the back.
Moore had lined his side up in a 3-5-2 formation, with Scott Harrison, David Mirfin and Dan Jones all immense.
Yes, the goal had a touch of fortune about it, Nicky Featherstone’s defence-splitting pass knocked into his own net by Andy Parrish under pressure from Ryan Bird.
But the 307 travelling supporters – a fifth of the crowd – who outsung The Shrimps support from minute one didn’t care a jot.
From then on in, Pools fought as if their lives depended on it.
Spirit, determination, endeavour. Characteristics that Pools supporters have waited too long to see.
But they were there in abundance at the Globe Arena and if they can produce a similar level of performance for the remaining 10 games then there is still a chance of survival.
Staying up is still a BIG ask, six points is the gap, seven with the goal difference, with some tough games to come.
But this side doesn’t seem to know when it is beaten – certainly under Moore’s stewardship – and that should stand them in good stead in the coming days and weeks.
Football League survival – and their future careers – is on the line, after all.
Those qualities should be the minimum though and they have set the bar now for their remaining fixtures.
Starting with Oxford United away tomorrow night.
Pools must build on this win with another three points but back-to-back wins is something they haven’t managed in over a year.
Can they finally break that hoodoo as well?
If they do, then anything really is possible between now and the start of May.
Moore leads from the front and he has never shied away from making big decisions and he was at it again on Saturday.
Marlon Harewood and Jordan Jones were dropped to the bench and Jack Compton and Marvin Morgan dropped altogether as Pools went with a 3-5-2 formation.
Michael Duckworth left wing-back and Neil Austin right wing-back.
It was a gamble but one that paid off handsomely for Moore & Co.
The game itself was fast-paced and entertaining, end to end at times with openings for both sides.
Pools started brightly and created the opening chance, Jones heading just wide from a deep Franks corner. He should have at least hit the target.
Morecambe also looked dangerous on the break, Kevin Ellison and Jack Redshaw sharp for the hosts.
The latter soon carved open the Pools defence, laying the ball back across goal only for Harrison to clear the danger from three yards out.
Ellison then blasted over, high over, the ball landing somewhere near Morecambe Bay.
Jim Bentley’s Morecambe were threatening but it was Pools that took the lead in the 35th minute.
Featherstone’s superb through ball latched onto to by Bird, who put Parrish under pressure before he finished past his own keeper Andreas Arestidou into the corner of the net.
The bench erupted. As did the travelling supporters, who were finally enjoying an away day.
After the break, the onslaught from the home side came.
Pools were camped in their own half for most of the opening stages but they were defending doggedly, throwing their bodies in the way of shots and making key interceptions.
Moore’s side finally broke with purpose in the 58th minute, Franks outpacing the home defence but his cross to Bird was poor.
The Shrimps should have levelled shortly after but somehow Redshaw missed a tap-in from a yard out.
It was a major let-off.
Pools then had Scott Flinders and Featherstone to thank, Flinders with a superb stop to deny Ellison’s header before the midfielder cleared off the line from Redshaw’s follow-up effort.
Ellison’s luck was out, he was at the heart of the action again as Mirfin deflected the ball onto his own crossbar from six-yards.
They were hanging on but could have made life easier, Bird saw his shot cleared off the line after rounding the Shrimps keeper.
Morecambe immediately broke at speed but Padraig Amond wasted a glorious chance to equalise, blasting his shot high over the bar.
It was a tense finale, Pools surviving six minutes of added-on time but they managed it to restore hope. Once again.
The emotions at the end said it all.
The coaching staff were hugging and embracing each other, the players celebrating as one before they all headed over to recognise the travelling Pools supporters.
It was a stark contrast from the emotions at Sunderland’s Stadium of Light.
Here, the fans are very much still behind the players and coaching staff as they look to pull off the Great Escape.
Before kick-off at Morecambe – home to legendary comic Eric Morecambe – ‘Bring Me Sunshine’ could be heard blasting over the PA system.
Well, Moore and his players brought the sunshine and three valuable points.
Another win tomorrow night is a must to avoid the dark clouds returning over the club again.
Morecambe (4-2-1-3): Arestidou, Beeley (McGowan, 86), Hughes (C), Parrish, Wilson, Wright (Drummond, 65), Fleming, Mullin (Sampson, 65), Ellison, Amond, Redshaw.
Subs Not Used: Stewart, Kenyon, Williams, Goodall.
Pools (3-5-2): Flinders, Austin, Mirfin, Harrison, D Jones, Duckworth, Featherstone, Walker (Hawkins, 72), Tshibola, Franks, Bird.
Subs Not Used: Maxted, Holden, Richards, J Jones, Smith, Harewood.
Scorer: Parrish OG (35)
Referee: Mark Haywood (West Yorkshire)
Attendance 1,673 (Pools 307)