Slap in face turns Hartlepool United season around

Hartlepool United manager Craig Harrison.
Hartlepool United manager Craig Harrison.

A slap in the face has turned around the fortunes of Hartlepool United – and Craig Harrison hopes to see his side build their momentum at Wrexham.

This evening they go to the Racecourse Ground where they seek a fourth win on the belt for the first time since March 2015.

We had to be better than that, and the way to start was run further and harder than the opposition and put in more tackles

CRAIG HARRISON

Ever since the end-of-the-world defeat at home to Fylde, Pools have been a team transformed, reeling off three wins, scoring five goals and conceding only one.

“It was a slap in the face from reality,” said Harrison, whose side found themselves in the relegation zone.

“We were where we were and it wasn’t good enough and it had to change.

“The players are good, hard-working professionals and they knew it wasn’t good enough.

“But that’s not me blaming the players here, the same applied to me, Jenks, Batesy, all the backroom staff.

“Fylde was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

“We had to be better than that, and the way to start was run further and harder than the opposition and put in more tackles.

“We’ve certainly done that the last three games.”

Pools are making a habit of winning “ugly” and they might have to do that again if they are to collect three points tonight at miserly Wrexham.

This evening they will be tackling one of the two teams in the division who are in even better touch than themselves.

Having started the season with a L-W-L-W-L sequence the Welsh outfit are now showing their promotion credentials with an unbeaten run of four games.

Wrexham are flying high in third place, having won three in a row before drawing at Torquay at the weekend, all with clean sheets.

Dean Keates’s side have not conceded a goal in 418 minutes or, to put it in simpler terms, seven hours.

Wrexham have not scored many either – eight in nine matches – but their resilience would suggest tonight could turn into something of a grind.

If it does, that won’t concern Harrison who has seen just what his players can do, at Guiseley and on Saturday against Dagenham & Redbridge at Victoria Park, where Pools beat the leaders 1-0.

Winning has become a habit and a habit he is desperate to extend.

“Wrexham is a tough test, but momentum is huge in football,” said the 39-year-old

“People are saying it seems we have a different team now, we haven’t but it’s crazy from 10 days ago to now.

“But that’s football, a lot of it’s in your head.

“The players are all good players, they had not turned into bad players.

“It’s about confidence and amazing what one win, never mind three, can do.”

Momentum is vital, as Harrison rightly points out, but one thing which he prizes the most is clean sheets.

After failing to keep one in the first six matches, Pools now have two in the last three – they would have had three but for a last-minute Maidstone consolation.

“I was harsh on our defenders a few games ago, but we probably had a reasonably goals against tally, but we hadn’t scored enough,” said the ex-Middlesbrough and Crystal Palace full-back.

“Being an ex-defender and a perfectionist it had to be better.

“You’d say 99% of the time the team which is keeping clean sheets will win championships and be successful.

“Look at Jose Mourinho – that’s what he did at Chelsea, no doubt he’ll try to do that at Man United.

“You look through football and it’s no coincidence that the teams who concede the fewest goals will be the ones in the to three.”

Wrexham are the clean sheet kings with four on the bounce, but if Pools can register one this evening then that slap in the face is paying dividends.