Nicky Featherstone aiming to end years of 'struggle' at Hartlepool United with play-off success
“This is why we want to be in football. We don’t want to be fighting relegation.”
That’s Hartlepool United midfielder Nicky Featherstone’s take on the club’s upcoming play-off match against Bromley at Victoria Park this Sunday (2:30pm kick-off).
The 32-year-old midfielder has experienced struggle and turmoil for the majority of his 291 games for the club over the past seven years.
But this season has been different as Pools have mounted their first serious promotion challenge in 14 years under Dave Challinor.
It’s Featherstone’s first play-off campaign as a player and one he can’t wait to get started with.
“I’m very excited,” he admitted. “These games we can go in and enjoy it. I know we’ve lost a few games recently but our form, especially at home the second half of this season, has been right up there.
"I think only Sutton who have got better form than us over the last 30 games so we’re just excited to play this game and hopefully progress through to the Stockport game.
He added: “Personally, I wouldn’t change much from this game compared with an ordinary league game. It’s important for me going into the game feeling relaxed and trying to enjoy the game.
"It’s about playing the game and not the occasion. The club has not had a play-off campaign in a long time and all I’ve known since I’ve been here is a real struggle really so it’s nice to be at this stage of the season playing for possibly a promotion back to the Football League.”
Pools failed to score against Bromley during the regular season after drawing 0-0 at Victoria Park back in October and losing 1-0 at Hayes Lane last month.
But Featherstone is looking to celebrate a week of family birthdays with a win against The Ravens on Sunday.
"It’s my mum’s birthday on Sunday,” the Pools midfielder added. “She’ll be at the game and it will be nice to get a win. It was my brother’s birthday [Thursday] as well and my little boy’s birthday next Tuesday so hopefully we can celebrate the week with a positive result on Sunday.
“It will be a tough game, they don’t concede many goals and they’re quite rigid in their style of play which isn’t a bad thing and they’ve got success from it.
"They’ll slow the game down if they’re in the game and take their time. It’s important that we implement our game plan and get after them early on.”
Regardless of what happens on Sunday, Featherstone feels the 2020-21 campaign has ‘been a successful one’ for Pools.
“The goal is obviously promotion to the EFL and that’s what everybody at the club wants,” he continued.
"But we set a target of making the play-offs minimum and we’ve achieved that goal. For me, it would be a big disappointment if we didn’t go up based on what we’ve done so far this season.
“It’s a good opportunity for us and we haven’t been in this position for a long time. We’ve got as good a chance as anyone and we’ve beaten everyone in the play-off places apart from Bromley this season so we know we have what it takes but it’s just about the performance we can muster up on the day.”