Michael Nelson has this to say about Hartlepool United players being 'on the beach' as end of season slump continued in Rochdale defeat

Michael Nelson has dismissed claims Hartlepool United players are ‘on the beach’ after their end of season slump continued with a late defeat at Rochdale.

By Joe Ramage
Wednesday, 20th April 2022, 12:30 pm

Assistant manager Nelson took interim charge at the Crown Oil Arena in place of Graeme Lee and watched on as Pools surrendered a first half lead by falling to a stoppage time defeat against Rochdale.

It was a defeat which extended Pools’ patchy end of season form to just one win in nine and has seen them drop out of the top half of the League Two table.

Pools mathematically secured their safety in the recent draw at Forest Green Rovers to accomplish the goal in which they set out to achieve this season.

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Michael Nelson has discussed the end of season syndrome creeping in at Hartlpeool United after defeat at Rochdale. (Credit: Mike Morese | MI New)

But with just three games of the campaign remaining there is a sense the season has fizzled out with the old adage of players being on their holidays being brought into conversation having secured their Football League status.

Assistant boss Nelson has however denied the players have taken their foot off the gas, insisting their stats suggest otherwise, but believes the only way they can change that accusation is by securing victories in their final games of the season.

“The players will get labelled with that. Every team up and down the land who go through a mixed bag of results towards the end of the season it always gets said that the players are on their holidays and they’ve down tools,” explained Nelson.

“The numbers don’t lie in terms of how far they run and their sprint distances and their high intensity work. There hasn't been a tail off in that over recent games since we got safe.

Michael Nelson says Hartlepool United need to work smarter. (Credit: Mike Morese | MI New)

“So they are working hard. Maybe we aren’t working smart. Maybe we're still doing the work and putting the yards in but maybe we’re doing it in the wrong areas and getting punished.

“That’s something we need to look at, but if they’re not going to win games then they’re always going to get labelled with that and that's something that they’re going to have to deal with.

“The only way they’re not going to get labelled with that is to go out and win games.

“It’s frustrating that people think we have to motivate them,” Nelson added.

Hartlepool United assistant manager Michael Nelson says the stats show players have not downed tools despite a recent dip in form since securing their League Two status. (Credit: Mike Morese | MI New)

“I didn’t need anyone to motivate me when I played. You should be able to motivate yourself whatever circumstances you’re in.

“Whether they’ve got a contract for next year, whether they’re trying to get a contract at a different club for next year, whether they’re trying to get a contract here for next year.

“Whatever it is there should always be that motivation within themselves as individuals and then collectively as a team.”

Despite the claims that Pools are ready for the season to come to its conclusion, Nelson has again suggested otherwise but does believe there are some weary bodies as we head into the final weeks of the campaign.

For a number within the squad, they have played two seasons almost back-to-back given the short turnaround following last year’s promotion from the National League.

It has been a demanding run, but Nelson believes the players need to finish strongly and put on a show for the supporters who have been with them every step of the way.

“It’s been a long two years, especially for the lads who’ve been through it last year and this year with the quick turnaround in the summer,” he said.

“Not having hardly any time off and going straight from the play-off game into a pre-season and cramming however many pre-season games into a compressed pre-season and then you’re straight into the league campaign which has been lengthened by two good cup runs as well.

The assistant manager added: “I don’t think anyone is desperate to get it over with, but as you can see with maybe one or two of them there’s some tired bodies and minds in there. It’s up to us to try and make sure they keep going right until the end.

“The fans don’t want it over. They want to come week in week out. They don't want to sit at home for the summer for eight, nine, ten weeks without football.

“So we’ve got to come and deliver for them more than anything else and come and put a performance and a show on for the fans who've supported them for all that time.

“Hopefully we’ll get the lads to manage to do that in the last few games of the season.”

But just how can Pools arrest their end of season slump to send supporters into their summer break with a smile?

Pools host Swindon Town this weekend, a side desperately trying to keep their play-off hopes alive, before travelling to relegated Scunthorpe United and finishing with a home game against Colchester United.

And while the data suggests the players are still performing at a certain level, Nelson believes they need to be more clinical in the final third to really capitalise on strong performances such as the first half against Rochdale.

“We need to be better in the final third. We get into the final third quite a good number of times in games but we need to be more creative and we need to be more of a threat in the final third,” said Nelson.

“We need to get more touches in the opposition box which will lead to more opportunities and more goals. That’s something we need to improve.

“We went through fits and starts [against Rochdale] where we were right at it and then we sometimes sat right back off.

“It’s hard to do it for 90 minutes, but we need to be more consistent and doing it a lot more times to make sure we’re right in people’s faces and when we come off the pitch, regardless of whether the team has won, lost or drawn, who we’ve played knows they’ve been in a game.”