TWELVE games to go, 36 points to play for. Hartlepool United need another eight wins, 24 points, to make the play-offs.

That’s the target manager Dave Challinor has set.

To get there they won’t have as many wins as easy as this one over Aldershot. They will also have to string more than two wins in a row together; and that’s something they’ve only managed once this season.

Pools are today in the position they were two weeks ago. Then they came away from a safe home win over Stockport three points shy of the top seven. Then they went to Barnet, lost and the gap was up to six.

Victory this time out put them three away again. When they head to Solihull next weekend, then keeping the gap intact is imperative.

Their last away win came at Chesterfield in November.

Slowly the mindset and mentality is changing around the club, but as long as those fundamentals exist, then Pools will fall short of their aim.

Challinor spoke on Saturday of the longer-term picture and an attack on the division next season, but the opportunity for success in a division of some extremes cannot be ignored.

“When you look at the table, the higher you get up the more positive impact it will have on the players’ outlook and mindset,’’ reflected the manager.

“I’ve been straight with them in terms of where I think we need to be. I am looking at eight wins from 12.

“It’s a big ask I know, but this has to be the start of another run for us.

“Anything is possible in this league and over the next couple of weeks we can directly influence things when we play teams in and around us.’’

He added: “We are absolutely good enough, no-one is saying it’s going to be easy, it’ll be really, really tough.

“My thought process is you have to set targets.

“We’re at a point when we are running out of games and we need them wins and it would be remiss of us not to have goals.

“Yes, you take it a game at a time based on how you train for each particular opposition to try to win three points, but , longer-term, you need to look at what you need to do.

“That will be minimum, it could change, but we must have something to aim for.

“What we are doing here is a longer process than just this season, but there is a real focus on what we can achieve if we get them and we’re more than capable of doing that.”

This game was as good as over after 20 minutes. The opposition, as bad and as uninterested as you will see all season, were two goals down and deflated.

Luke Molyneux was a welcome starter, making the most of Gavan Holohan’s suspension. Almost 70 minutes of action with a goal and an assist will do him the world of good.

Now he’s fit, there’s only Luke Williams to think about when it comes to making a positive return from injury this season.

Molyneux netted after five minutes. Neat and tidy passing and movement on the left saw Rob Harker intelligently pick him out to score.

“As a young player in that position I’d have been shooting in that position on my home debut,’’ smiled Challinor. “To pick Luke out for a tap in was massive and his performance deserved a goal. His opportunity in the second half deserved a goal.

“I felt he was great. We made a choice between him and Aidan (Keena). Aidan was brilliant in his home debut and he had a bit of an injury issue at the start of the week. We couldn’t risk him.

“Rob’s physicality up there was great in a lone striker role and focal point in the team.’’

The second came when Molyneux’s corner, he will be influential from set-pieces in the weeks to come, landed for Mark Shelton to head in.

Shelton’s effervescence in midfield and his ability to add to the goal output cannot be underestimated. Signed on loan until the end of the season, keeping him will be a priority.

Most teams who visit Victoria Park with two holding midfielders in front of the back four are hard to break down and stubborn. Not the Shots. They were very easy to pick off.

Striker Mo Bettender went down injured as half-time approached. Under little pressure from Ryan Donaldson, it was comical how long it took for him to get treatment and then hobble halfway around the pitch before a stretcher arrived.

Shots’ boss Danny Searle said afterwards his forward had suffered a serious injury and they feared a long-term absence.

As the game went on it was mainly about when Pools would score a third and they had enough chances to add comfortably to their tally thanks to some atrociously unorganised defending.

But it was Pools who needed to defend smartly and Macauley Southam-Hailes headed superbly off the line for the second home game in a row.

Goalkeeper Ben Killip was rightly recalled for the unconvincing Mitchell Beeney, this was a gentle reintroduction to the game.