JANUARY 2018: Hartlepool United 0 Wrexham 2.

The club was on the brink of going under. The crowd was good, the team woeful. The Northern Echo wrote: “Not even a shot. Not a chance of any note. Not a jot of excitement, a chance, a penalty box scramble. Nothing to offer any hope that things will get better. Just a routine home defeat.’’

March 2019: Hartlepool United 1 Wrexham 0.

The club has been stabilised off the pitch. The team is vibrant and positive. Only one outfield player from last season’s fixture was involved this time.

Pools saw off the team sitting third in the table with some ease.

There was a feeling on Saturday, amid a raucous atmosphere, that the supporters have finally got their club back.

“I think we have had games when we have been impressive, Boreham Wood was really good away from home, but you want to measure yourself against the best teams,’’ admitted boss Craig Hignett, on the back of two defeats in ten since he took over.

“I think that gives everyone a true measure of where we are as a club and as a team. We aren’t a million miles away and anyone watching that would think we are better then they are. We had more than them all over the pitch if I’m honest.’’

Pools shape and formation on Saturday was spot on. Hignett has the ability to get the right players in the right areas of the pitch. There’s no round pegs in square holes now.

Josh Hawkes has flourished under Hignett in the spot behind the front man. Saturday’s goal was his seventh in ten outings under Hignett.

His penalty, Pools’ 12th 12-yard conversion of the season, crept over the line after keeper Rob Lainton looked like he was keeping it out. The penalty was enough for victory against opposition who remain third in the table in their 11th campaign in the division after falling from the Football League.

Ahead of Hawkes, Nicke Kabamba was a constant handful for the opposition. He was well supported by three running around him. The opposition centre-halves never had any peace from his incessant nature. His mobility and motion defied his targetman frame.

Visiting boss Bryan Hughes was complimentary about Kabamba, but not too convinced about Pools.

He said: “We weren’t good enough to be totally, brutally honest. We allowed them to dictate the play in the first half and win the second balls. The striker Kabamba was causing us all sort of problems and we made them look a better team than what they really are.’’

Pools were impressive. They were better than Wrexham, who lacked any strength up front other than the approach of striker Chris Holroyd and his flailing arms.

At the back, captain Shaun Pearson deserves credit for the most cynical of fouls as he dropped the marauding Ryan Donaldson in his tracks as he burst past him. It was so good his team-mate James Jennings did the same to Luke James in the last minute.

Pearson brought down Hawkes for the penalty. He had one go at the midfielder, who stayed upright when lesser players would have gone to ground. When he was chopped second time he couldn’t do anything else but fall.

Hignett said: “Josh takes penalties – he’s scored them all he’s taken. The keeper saved it, but had spin on it to get over the line. He’s got the bottle to get up and take it and I thought he was excellent again.

“People who score goals from midfield are worth money – the more he scored the better for everyone.’’

Pools have six games to go, the aim is to carry on this momentum to the end of the season and into next.

“It was enjoyable, the crowd were good,’’ added the manager. “The atmosphere was fantastic and it helps the lads, hopefully we can keep them coming and enjoying it.

“Everyone, crowd, players, club has all pulled together of late. Different class.

“It’s down to hard work and we have changed the way we play, they’ve all took it on board and have confidence. Results breed confidence and we have only lost two in ten. We are still a work in progress, but we can see the football we are moving towards.

“I’m really pleased for everyone here.’’

The Richard Money era seems a world away now. Pools wouldn’t have competed in the manner they did on Saturday under the previous boss.

Hignett wants his team to attack. Home performances have been morose for far too long. It’s not two in a row Pools have walked off to a standing ovation.

As the game closed out, they never looked in trouble. Breaking on the counter attack, they looked the most likely to score.

“This is what we want to be,’’ added the manager. “We can see the style we want to play and added to that get two or three in to improve. Keep two or three who are here, anything can happen and we hope people who are here are enjoying what they are doing and see this as the next step in the career.

“Look at next season and with the backing the chairman has promised me, I hope we can compete.’’