Top two gone for Hartlepool United admits Dave Challinor as he assesses promotion race
With three games remaining, Hartlepool United can still mathematically win the National League title but manager Dave Challinor has ruled out even a top two finish.
Pools are currently eight points adrift of leaders Sutton United with three games remaining. It would take a minor miracle, requiring Sutton, Torquay and Stockport County to capitulate in their final three games, in order for Challinor’s side to have a chance of the title.
While the Pools boss tends to have an optimistic outlook when it comes to his side’s chances of success, he was realistic in conceding that a third placed finish is the best his side can hope for this campaign.
“We're at a point now where because of our last two results, we need help from somewhere in order to finish third,” Challinor said.
“In reality, the way it sits now, we're hoping that after taking care of our stuff, Torquay beat Stockport this weekend which gives us a chance of getting third.
"Sutton are 78, Torquay 77, the maximum we can get is 79 which is never going to be enough to finish top two. We've got to win our games and hope Torquay do us a favour so we can finish third.”
Seven points below Pools, a fascinating contest for the final three play-off places is developing with just two points separating fifth and ninth in the table.
To make matters even more interesting, fifth placed Notts County still have Bromley, who sit a point behind them in eighth, to play twice in their final four games as well as ninth placed Wrexham.
Chesterfield and Halifax Town, who sit sixth and seventh respectively on 62 points, will also face each other on the last day of the season, May 29.
And with three games left to play, Challinor is content that Pools’ position in the play-offs is effectively guaranteed.
“We want to finish as high as we can and I’m certainly happier to be in our position than being in the mix with Halifax, Wrexham, Notts County, Bromley, Chesterfield all of whom their fate is dependent on the last three or four games,” the Hartlepool boss told The Mail.
“Ours is still similar and I’d much rather be in Sutton’s position than our position and that’s always going to be the case.
"We harbour outside thoughts of giving ourselves one semi-final game to get to a play-off final but we’re reliant on other results in order for that to happen.
"We’ve just got to look after us, get as big a points total as we can and if that means we finish third, great, if it means we finish fourth then I suppose the only uncertainty from our perspective will be who we end up playing in the play-offs.
"Unless things sort themselves out in the next two games, the last weekend of the season Notts County are playing Bromley and Chesterfield are playing Halifax so those games, you’d imagine will determine those remaining play-off places and who misses out.”