WHEN RITCHIE Humphreys last suffered three consecutive defeats in a Hartlepool United shirt, there was no inkling of the joys that lay ahead.

Nearly four years on, Humphreys and Pool are now geared up for similar future success.

Defeats to Stockport, Wrexham and Hull make up Pool's first triple reverse since Humphreys' early days at Victoria Park.

Then, just three, four and five games into his rich spell at the club, Humphreys was part of the team that lost to Darlington, Orient and Scunthorpe.

After slumping to the foot of the table, Chris Turner's side went on to make the Division Three play-offs two years running before finally securing promotion.

Ahead of today's home tester with play-off rivals Tranmere, Pool still have a stranglehold on the play-off zone.

Neale Cooper's side sit in fifth place, four points ahead of Brentford, the next team looking at the top six from outside.

Humphreys, who will today be involved in his 201st consecutive game since signing for the club, admitted: "We are a good team and we are better off than we were at this stage of last season.

"We still want to do better and make sure we achieve our aims. It's not just this season we have done well, it's been like that for a few years now and this is a little bit of a test for us.

"Last season we only lost back-to-back games once and that was towards the end of the season. We went on a good strong run immediately after that and now we are looking for the same.

"I was saying before the Hull game that we had that bad run when I first came to the club and it was a long time ago.

"But when we have gone 12 games unbeaten we have had a bit of luck and that's how it goes.

"Tranmere is another tough one, against another team chasing promotion.

"But it's important we get back to playing at home like we can.''

Last Saturday's freak 6-4 reverse to Wrexham will long be remembered at Victoria Park.

Their defeat at Hull will only be recalled for the manner of the reverse - linesman David Benton flagging for a penalty against Ben Clark as the defender stooped to head clear.

Cooper was boiling at the decision, the anger of his players not far behind.

Humphreys admitted: "It was a decision no-one was happy with.

"We know it's tough to get a result at Hull and, if we gave a bad performance, it's the sort of thing you have to accept.

"But to lose in that manner was very hard to take.

"We worked so hard to get something out of it and to lose it like that. . . .

"The ball has come in and he's headed it down against the ground. His arms were up by his sides, they were nowhere near the ball.

"Their players didn't appeal, it was the crowd and then the linesman has given it. It was very hard to take.''

Humphreys, out of contract this summer but believed to be among those next on Cooper's list to sign, added: "When things go against you, decisions like that do and we have to accept that we are in a little run like that right now.

"Second-half we had a few chances and, OK, they were breaking away, but we had to open up a bit more.

"Even when the ball came right across the box in the last few minutes it didn't go for us.

"When you are on a good run and winning week after week those chances go in.

"To work so hard at Hull and get nothing is hard to take. We were left gutted. Things like that don't go for you in a little bit of a dip, but I thought we performed well, second-half especially.

"We got further forward and supported Boydy (Adam Boyd) a lot more. We put Jon (Daly) on and went for them, but it wasn't to be.

"It's new to lose three games in a ro; it's only happened to me once before since I came here nearly four years ago.

"So we've got to stick together now. We aren't up at the top of the table by a fluke.''

* Pool have taken former Newcastle defender Steve Howey on trial.

He has recently returned from playing in America after leaving Bolton at the end of last season.

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