MICKY Nelson last night insisted that Hartlepool United can make the automatic promotion places.

Pool have gone ten games without defeat - eight in League One and two in the FA Cup - and, with leaders Luton and second-placed Hull both dropping points at the weekend, Pool have eight points to make up on the pair.

But the gap on Luton has been closed of late - Mike Newell's side have drawn five of their last ten games and Pool have gained six points on the leaders in that period.

Pool's run could see Neale Cooper crowned manager of the month, two years after Newell was the last Pool boss to take the award.

But Nelson, outstanding in Saturday's win over Bristol City, has a bigger prize in sight.

"The top two aren't out of reach,'' he said. "Hull lost on Saturday and Luton drew, so that's a few more points we've caught up on them.

"Hull have been on a great run, they won something like nine on the bounce I think, but maybe they have hit their sticky patch.

"If we can continue to play the way we are doing, we can push them all the way.''

Bristol boss Brian Tinnion claimed his side dominated, but Nelson said: "It doesn't matter one bit what he said about the game - the papers will have the result as a 2-1 win for us.

"When we got going we played some great football and I don't think Joel (Porter) and Adam Boyd have played better together.

"We had the majority of play and chances in the first half and were unhappy to go in at 1-1.

"But we kept on playing football in the second half and I think Saturday was probably the best we have played footballing wise all season, either at home or away.''

l Midfielder Darrell Clarke will have a knee operation on Wednesday, which will rule him out for another month. He suffered cartilage damage on loan for Stockport last week.

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