Final Score: Hartlepool United 0, Stevenage 2

FOUR games, three defeats and only a point for his efforts. Welcome to Hartlepool United.

But John Hughes isn't fazed by the job, he's inspired by it.

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The defeat by Stevenage equalled the club record of 20 games without a win.

The 18 league and two winless cup games Viv Busby's side trudged through in 1993 has been matched.

With a trip to MK Dons on Saturday to come, few would expect the run to be over before Portsmouth visit Victoria Park on December 20.

Two weeks without a game brought an improved and more disciplined performance, but the same outcome.

Now Hughes can expect more banter to deal with when he gets to the training ground tomorrow.

"There will be comings and goings and we will be spinning plates, but I want to bring success here,'' he said.

"They gave me an opportunity, the supporters are behind me and there's a right good sense of warmth here in the North-East.

"Right from my first game, losing 5-0 to Coventry, I walked into training the next day and one of the staff there said 'you've not improved it much then' and it makes you feel homely.

"Even the guy who says that cares. Passion, spirit and pride are needed and it was there this weekend.''

Pools gave their most promising performance in weeks. They now play with a shape and discipline lacking previously. Players have a job to do and they know what it involves.

Stevenage had to work for their seventh away win of the season and Pools were, in the main, the better side.

But they didn't take any of the 16 chances they created. They have gone months without forging that many openings, never mind forcing as many in one game.

Jordan Richards had their first, creaming a first-time shot that Steve Arnold pushed away, before Charlie Wyke's back header was saved.

Wyke made a decent fist of his first start and Hughes is understandably keen to keep him on loan from Middlesbrough.

But Pools were soon behind. Marcus Haber, once a Pools trialist, got across Sam Collins to head at goal and, after the ball cannoned back off a post, he reacted first to net.

There was no bowing of the heads and succumbing to the inevitable this time.

Pools went on the offensive. Jon Franks had two efforts blocked and saved before he fired over from a set-piece routine.

Then Steve Howard looked set to score after Ritchie Humphreys dinked the ball up into the area, but Andy Monkhouse and Antony Sweeney also went for the same ball and the best chance of the half was wasted.

Pools were two-down when Richards handled as he reacted a bit too slowly to a deep cross and Lucas Akins scored from the penalty.

It was the third penalty conceded for handball in Hughes' three home games to date.

Even getting one goal back would have given a positive boost, but instead there was again nothing to celebrate.

Antony Sweeney had two goalbound efforts blocked, Howard twice headed wide, and Luke James bounced one over from close range.

"There's plenty to be pleased with and in the second-half we could have scored a few," said Hughes. "Stevie Howard says he has hit the post seven times this season.

"We've had two good weeks in training without a game and looked free. As a coach you have to be switched on - are performances better? Are they passing the ball better? A lot of my training is short, sharp switches in play.

"Things were evident in this game and we didn't have a real good opportunity to train on the pitch and slow it down properly. It will get better and it has to get better.

"I'm a manager and have to make sure I'm making the right decisions. I'm also a supporter here and you have to look at it in a calculated manner.

"It's pointless hitting the players with a big stick. Some will say this and that I should be running them along the beach. But you have make sure you are in a calculated manner and getting a response with effort, commitment and craftiness that can cause other teams problems and that was evident.''

He added: "If we keep working hard, the results will come. They need to recognise what we were doing in the first-half as a team. Learn that, educate themselves and see how we want to play football.

"As a coach I should be standing back and watching the players playing the sort of football I want here.

"I was not going to talk about luck, but a bit of luck wouldn't go amiss and that can get us heading towards some victories.''