MATTHEW BATES was quick to make an impact as Hartlepool United manager last season and, having been handed the chance on a full-time basis, he is doing a positive job of making his influence count this season too.

But the Pools boss, who spent his playing career in the Football League and Premier League before last season’s drop, knows that he can’t take anything for granted in the National League, as he looks for sustained success at Victoria Park.

Hartlepool are up to sixth in the table after an unbeaten run that has raised hopes of being in the mix for promotion for the rest of the season. While Bates is determined to achieve that, he also knows that it will be harder than many outside of non-league circles would imagine.

“We are not that far away,” said Bates. “It’s a very hard league, in terms of those around us with the likes of Harrogate flying, they all want that spot. It’s a hard league. You can’t take yourself away from it.

“You need things to fall for you, you need to just get as many points as you can.

“You do look at the league from above without realising the standard of it, I certainly did, now I know how hard it is. Every game is hard every week.

“Boreham Wood beat Sutton away 4-0 the other day, and that came from nowhere. That doesn’t happen at the top level very much. It’s a hard league and not many will understand that results like that happen all the time at this level.”

That should not detract from Bates’ positive outlook. As Hartlepool head to Halifax today, and then Salford on Tuesday, the former Middlesbrough defender is satisfied with the progress that has been made under him a short space of time.

He said: “When you start a new job you never know, you never know really in any job. Results have certainly helped. I am happy with where we are but I am not happy with the points we have dropped, we could be higher.

“That’s the same as the players, not just myself. We have dropped six points from winning positions and that’s something we have to work on, I am sure that will change.

“It’s part of being a manager, it’s a long season, but I don’t rest on our start thinking everything is fine, I want to keep improving. If I am like that the players will be.”

Even though Hartlepool’s turnaround in fortunes started last season, when Bates’ first game in charge ended in a 14-match search for a win and ultimately ended in survival, the focused Teessider feels things feel even better this season.

Bates, assisted by former Sunderland academy boss Ged McNamee and goalkeeper coach Ross Turnbull, said: “It feels a lot different, a new owner, new style and everything is different. Many new managers tend to get a reaction, then you have to try to sustain that and so far so good.

“The players have changed, our style has changed, we are not the same, we try to get the ball down and play and that’s evolution if you like in terms of the players we have been able to bring in. In terms of myself I am just the same.

“You have your own style in mind. When I came in last year I was stuck with the players I had, so you do try to bring in new players to suit your style and philosophy if you like.

“You have to adjust to the players you have too, you need to look at ways to tinker and find a way your squad is best suited. We are still tinkering now, making slight changes, trying to improve, that is how it has to be.”

And as for Halifax, who have dropped to tenth after a four match winless run which has included three draws, Bates knows it will be a tough afternoon even with approaching 1,000 travelling fans.

Bates said: “We know we have two away games, we are on an unbeaten run, eight unbeaten, one we have lost and our last defeat away from home was the start of March.

“Halifax are another tough team, it’s a hard, hard league to play in. I have respect for every team in this league. Any team on the day is a good side.

“It’s about being consistent, we have been so far, even if we have had a little blip. We go there and show them respect, we have to concentrate on us and if we can get to our best then I am sure we can win.”