CREWE have twice beaten Hartlepool United this season. When the sides meet again tonight at Victoria Park, the visitors will encounter entirely different opposition.

Meekly rolling over and falling to a 5-0 Capital One Cup defeat on the opening day of the season set the early season tone.

A 2-1 October reverse in Cheshire was another defeat in a string of many in a pitiful 22-game winless run.

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But Pools are now much improved and Saturday's win at Scunthorpe was their fourth in six unbeaten games.

Tonight is the third time Pools have been at Victoria Park within days of an away win. On the two other occasions, against Preston and Portsmouth, they failed to follow up with a victory.

Manager John Hughes has reiterated his stance that Pools have cup finals to play every week as they strive to overcome the eight-point deficit to the safety line.

And, now they are making a fight of their situation, he can see the different outlook around the club.

"It's about the pride in winning a football match and giving that pride to the supporters,'' he said.

"There is a spring in everyone's step around the football club.

"I know bits and pieces about the history of the club and I'm sure there's been some hard times over the years.

"So hopefully there are good times ahead.

"The next six weeks is Saturday-Tuesday - but that's brilliant, bring it on. As a footballer you'll get nothing better, especially when you're playing at the top of your game - you're in the zone.

"We've got that winning feeling now.''

But Hughes won't let his players get carried away as they prepare for a busy schedule with 14 games remaining.

"We've got to be careful with expectations - let's enjoy the win at Scunthorpe,'' he said.

"Crewe are a good team and they're above us in the league for a reason.

"They might be better than us, but it's not always the best team which wins a football match.

"But we have the confidence and momentum right now.

"For us to have the best chance possible we need everyone fit, they are all up for it and long may that be the case.''

Jon Franks scored Pools' second goal at the weekend, it was his third of the season and he has a licence to attack with some freedom under the system Pools have adopted.

It's a role he enjoys and admits he's happier roaming inside for possession rather than hogging the touchline.

"Earlier in the season I might not have had the confidence to go past the defender in that situation to go on and score, but I might not have been in that position or situation anyway,'' he admitted.

"Now we know what our job is every game, there's freedom to play and James Poole and Charlie Wyke have done well in recent weeks for us as well.

"The front three is working well, we all interchange and link up. Bottom line is you have to work hard and we have been.

"Charlie is a Middlesbrough player who is here for us and he is going to be a big player, but he's learning while he's here and developing.

"Ability will come out, but you have to start off with the high workrate and he's doing that.''

He added: "I like playing more central, it's a position I enjoy, but I'm happy on the wing as well. The difference now is that our style of play is to come inside on the ball and getting at defenders rather than being out on the touchline.

"Before it was 4-4-2 and that was it really. We wanted balls into the box for Stevie (Howard), but we tended to go behind and ended up chasing the games.

"Now the lads want to play a bit more football, we aren't stuck in one position. There's a solid back four with Simon protecting them and the rest of us have some freedom to go forward.''

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