Where do Hartlepool United go from here?
Please don’t say the National League, even though it is looking increasingly likely that Pools will be overhauled by Newport County.
It would be disturbing should the best-qualified manager in the club’s history take Pools out of the League.
While the picture for the last 10 games does not look that bad, 11 points from 30, Pools have not won since March 14, when they beat Cambridge United.
But since then, Newport have reeled off three victories – all with the clean sheets – to close the gap to a single point.
Pools look a broken side as those who witnessed Monday’s appalling display at Leyton Orient will testify.
Can it be fixed? Are there any options left open to Dave Jones?
There are areas to concentrate on to try to get that all-important win against Barnet which could just kick-start a grandstand finish.
Bring back Matthew Bates.
Before anyone demands this writer is drugs-tested, yes I know the ex-Boro star has not kicked a ball or made a tackle for the best part of 13 matches and will not be match-fit.
However, Pools need his brain and experience this Saturday.
Someone else may have to do some of his running, heading and tackling, but so be it.
It is no sleight on Scott Harrison and Brad Walker, who have been, largely, outstanding in their alliance since they were thrown together like Kylie and Jason, ironically after the hamstring injury to Bates at Luton.
A few cracks appeared on Monday at Leyton Orient, where both were off-colour.
You can see Scott and Brad starting next season at the heart of the defence, but for Saturday one may need an afternoon off unless Jones goes to three at the back which would accommodate all three men.
A second chance for Nicky Deverdics?
Unless Jones changes his formation to a 3-5-2, he needs a left-back.
Liam Donnelly is out suspended after the red mist descended at Leyton Orient.
There are three options, Deverdics, who has filled in there with some confidence, teenager James Martin or recall Jordan Richards from his loan spell at Alfreton.
Deverdics was given an opportunity against the O’s but failed to grasp it and was hauled off at half-time.
Is he worth another outing? My hunch is yes.
He does have a good left foot, if he puts it to use, which gives Pools a bit more balance in a team heavy in the right-foot department.
He will also be coming up against the club who released him into a spiral of non-league football, so you suspect he may have a point to prove against the Bees.
Return for Michael Woods.
A given you would suggest after Monday’s shambles.
Woods was left out of the starting XI after a couple of below-par displays but even before half-time against the O’s Jones was readying the ex-Chelsea man to come on.
His arrival in the second half gave Pools some much-needed drive and he slung in some quality balls too, which were squandered by the frontline.
There could be a case for restoring Lewis Hawkins to field a familiar old midfield triumvirate of Nicky Featherstone, Hawkins and Woods.
Worth a punt? You would say so, but Woods certainly must start against the Bees.
Time for Dave Jones to step up to the plate.
It would be both disturbing, and deeply ironic, should the best-qualified manager in the club’s history be the man to take Pools out of the Football League.
Jones pitched up at the Northern Gas & Power Stadium with the most impressive CV of any boss Pools have appointed, with only Danny Wilson coming close.
It’s now time he justified his rating.
Even taking into account the fact that he took over a struggling side, his record has been awful.
Since his appointment, Pools have won four, drawn four and lost nine and now need three wins out of three to guarantee survival.
He made the fair point after Monday’s game that he should not have to raise the players, that they, as professionals should be raising themselves.
But, clearly, they do need inspiring and Jones must do that.
He’s no longer at a Southampton, a Wolves, a Cardiff or a Wednesday where he managed 11 talented footballers every game – this is Hartlepool, where he may not possess the most gifted of players but instead must eke every ounce from them.
Get the lads away from the football pitch.
It might sound a bizarre thing to say, but the last thing the squad might need at the moment is the training ground.
If it was the start of the week, this reporter would suggest a beer or three, a laugh and a joke, a chance to lift the atmosphere at such a grave time.
If I was Jones, when the lads turn up to training tomorrow I’d say ‘right boys, no training today, we’re going out’.
Take them to the golf course, ten-pin bowling, the races (get on to Richardsons Coaches and hire a bus to Ripon, they are under starter’s orders tomorrow), the baths .... anywhere.
Anywhere to foster some team spirit and enjoyment ahead of a match Pools simply have to win.