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Final countdown starting tonight for Hughes
JOHN HUGHES hopes to still be talking of beating relegation in a month's time.
If the Hartlepool United boss is doing so then his players will have exceeded mid-season expecations. They will also have most likely won at Oldham tonight.
This evening's game at Boundary Park pitches third-bottom Pools with the fourth-bottom Latics.
There's a six point gap between them and a further two to next team on the ladder, Scunthorpe.
Games are running out for Pools and Hughes, his side winless and goalless in four, admitted: "Tuesday is the big game. I just hope come April we are still there and still being asked the same questions.
"Remember we were down and out at Christmas, a laughing stock and we have put pride back into the club.''
Pools' turnaround in form and fortunes started with a win at Sheffield United.
He added: "If you said to me at Christmas time that we would still be in there fighting and putting pride back in the club then they would have locked you up in the loony bin.
"That just shows how much of a turnaround there has been. Even in defeat you take it on the chin and come back. If the boys keep showing that outlook and style of football, while adding a bit more in the final third, we have a chance.
"We are in a busy period, five games in 17 days, so it's about keeping them fresh. Tactics are done, we know what's required and I've had a fantastic response.''
Pools went down 1-0 at Coventry on Saturday, feeling hard done by in conceding the only goal of the game, when striker Cody McDonald got the better of Peter Hartley in a challenge.
Hughes reflected: "The players know what is needed. There's eight to go and I have a sneaky feeling of what we have to do and I have warriors who want to give it a right good go.''
Since beating Crewe 3-0 three weeks back, Pools have not scored, a run of four blanks that is threatening to knock their hopes.
The front three of Charlie Wyke, James Poole and Jonathan Franks have laboured of late following a bright February.
Hughes admitted: "We haven't scored and, for me, that's a negativity. I take inspiration from what the boys are giving me and you cannot win them all.
"We keep playing with a style of football and level of performance and we want to stay in this division. Sometimes in life you don't get what you deserve.
"We work with what we have, maybe we have to change it? But the front three right now are good footballers on the ball and take it in areas to cause problems. We always keep ourselves in the game and, maybe, we are a bit predictable.
"We pick the best team to win a football match. The gap remains six, but games are running out. Who knows?''
Oldham yesterday confirmed Lee Johnson as their new manager. The Latics also have Paul Murray in their squad, after he moved to Boundary Park from Pools in January.