‘They’d be deserving champions’ – Hartlepool United boss Dave Challinor praises Sutton United's title charge
Sutton United could win the National League title on Sunday afternoon should they beat Hartlepool United at Gander Green Lane.
There’s a lot riding on the fixture with fans returning for what will be a decisive game in the title race broadcast live on BT Sport.
Pools can’t win the title themselves but they could potentially do Torquay United a huge favour should they win while also keeping their hopes of a top three finish alive.
“There's plenty to play for,” said Pools boss Dave Challinor. “Sutton will know where they're at after Saturday’s results.
"From their perspective, four points wins them it, potentially three points could be enough. They've got a good home record, they’ll be looking to win the game on Sunday as we are.”
The reverse fixture between the sides back in January saw Pools claim a 1-0 win thanks to a second half header from Rhys Oates.
"We beat them in a close game at The Vic where there wasn’t much between the sides so we expect it to be similar,” Challinor added.
“It was a good game and felt like a game between two teams who had a real chance of being up near the top come the end of the season and that’s proven to be the case.
"You take bits from it but that was a different game that was played back in January so three months ago now. They’ll now have an opportunity at home that they’ll want to take while we go there looking to try and replicate our own home performance against them and hopefully get the same result.
"This weekend it’s two good teams, one with the title dangling in front of them and one who wants to finish as high as possible going into the play-offs.
"It will be a good game I’m sure, Saturday could clear things up but it could further dull the waters. It is what it is, for the first time, we can be reactive, we’re not planning to do that because we’ve worked on things this week that should better us moving forward.”
Sutton have been competing at the top of the National League since the start of the season, hardly ever dropping out of the top three places and losing just seven games so far.
“They’ve been really consistent,” Challinor added.
“Of all of the teams, they’re probably the one who over the course of the season have managed to keep the core of their team fit and been able to pick the same team pretty consistently.
"They haven’t got a huge squad but it’s full of really solid players at this level. We know it’s a tough game but they are where they are on merit and they’ve given themselves a shot where it’s in their hands.
"You look at it and suggest that the way the table looks, it’s theirs to lose now. They’ll back themselves to pick up the points to make sure they lift the trophy come the end of the season. If that is the case then they’d be deserving champions.”