Joe Ramage: Hartlepool United can still use stunning cup run as a platform to ensure season does not fizzle out
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Rewind just one week and we were all trying to take stock of what had happened the night previous at the Suit Direct Stadium.
Pools showcased everything that is right about the club at this moment in time as they gave everything to reach the final of the EFL Trophy against League One’s leaders Rotherham United.
After experiencing the pandemic-era of football, where the only sounds to be heard in football stadiums were the shouts of players and managers, and in Hartlepool’s case the odd seagull squawking overhead like you or I in the pub dissecting things over a post-match pint, Pools’ semi-final was something to behold.
A sold-out crowd was already in place well before the Sky cameras were rolling, waving their flags and banners all the while being in full, fine, voice.
"It was electric inside the stadium," said Rotherham boss Paul Warne. "It added so much to the occasion. It is the first time I have ever clapped a whole football ground. I was worried. It felt like their fans were giving their team an extra ten per cent."
High praise, and warranted praise.
Unfortunately for the majority of the 7,532 inside a raucous Suit Direct Stadium, things didn’t quite go to plan. Penalties are often the best and worst ways to lose a game of football, as Pools have found out this season.
But while Rotherham supporters celebrated away in the Rink End, the remaining three corners of the ground rose to their feet and applauded Pools, belting out their support as if to say ‘we’re still with you.’
And that mantra is going to be needed for the remaining 10 games of the season.
As deflating as that semi-final defeat was, and as despairing as it is to come so close and yet be so far from an elusive Wembley appearance, there is plenty still to play for this campaign.
The danger from that defeat however is what we have seen transcend into the subsequent league outings as a drab affair with Leyton Orient was followed by Tuesday’s home reverse to Bradford City.
While Graeme Lee had stressed his desire to press on after their cup exploits, it seems difficult to imagine Pools now being able to threaten the top seven with any lingering hopes of a play-off charge perhaps diminished in that Bradford defeat.
But with 10 games remaining the key now is for Pools to at least ensure the season does not fizzle out.
Although things were fairly flat in the stands against Leyton Orient, Pools supporters were back to their best against Bradford and you can be sure they will continue to do so for the final five games at the Suit Direct Stadium.
The hope being that it translates onto the pitch.