NEAL ARDLEY, the Notts County manager, said last week that Dave Challinor has Hartlepool United playing ‘rotational football’.

Well what comes around goes around and the circle is turning at Victoria Park.

Four games, four home wins. One point off the play-offs and there’s a positivity around the place for the first time in a while.

Pools have a new outlook. One which could take them to the play-offs, which is the stated aim of Challinor. Seven wins is what he’s demanding now.

If they play like they did against Notts – who were as ordinary as ordinary can be and still sit a point above Pools in the table – then they can achieve their aim.

Challinor has devised a formula for Pools and it’s working. Hard work, running, intensity and a willingness to win the ball back: pressing as it’s called in the Premier League, honesty and graft at Pools.

He said: “The intensity has absolutely changed and I don’t want to be critical of what happened previously but they couldn’t do that before.

“We have pushed them and done sessions that have hurt them but they are reaping the rewards now.’’

The manager’s imprint is all over this team, they have a way of playing which the opposition are now concerned about.

“They had us at full stretch for a long time and that’s what they are good at,’’ said Ardley on Saturday. “The manager has got them playing really well.’’

At the heart of Pools’ positivity of late has been Nicky Featherstone. His two goals won it, his influence stamped all over the pitch.

Not without his critics over the last couple of years, the midfielder is enjoying life under Challinor.

“There is a feeling that something is changing here,’’ he reflected. “First time probably since I’ve been here there’s been a real stability and it massively helps.

“We’ve a manager who is demanding and expects quality and hard work every single day and that’s only going to benefit us.

“It’s a different outlook now. I’ve not had the intensity in training since I’ve been here to what we do. Every manager is different. Ronnie Moore was from the old school, but was effective. Craig Hignett first time was pure football. This manager wants to play football, but be progressive with it.

“He has a saying – don’t play at the back, play out from the back. He wants the ball forward to create excitement and chances and if that means clipping one in behind then it happens, if it is playing through the thirds, so be it.

“It’s an exciting time here now, after how it’s been the last few years.

“Tuesday sessions are tough, he’s massive on high intensity so it’s not about distance, but speed. Tuesday’s are tough and you can tell we look a lot fitter for it.’’

Pools have long been embarrassed in the National League fitness stakes, but not any more. They are as swift and strong as anyone they’ve come across of late, with two full backs full of beans on the flanks throughout and a midfield as strong as the wind which whipped in on Saturday.

Pools could have been ahead on two minutes, should have been in front by half time, but went in goalless.

Before the break, Notts changed from 4-4-2 to 4-5-1, dropping striker Krystian Dennis deeper. At half-time they took off the former Pools target in favour of a natural midfielder.

Within two minutes, they were behind. Featherstone floated a cross over from the left side, high and curling towards goal. Keeper Joe McDonnell flapped at it and missed it, beaten by the wind according to his manager.

The second goal was similar in nature. This time a curling Featherstone free-kick from the left arced its way into the net.

Next time he got the ball 35 yards from goal, on the opposite touchline, the crowd bayed for him to shoot. Luckily for McDonnell he didn’t.

But Featherstone could have had an unprecedented hat-trick. Macauley Southam-Hailes went on a surge down the right, Featherstone broke into the area, waiting to picked out for a tap in and ball went across goal instead. That was his chance, probably his only ever chance, of a matchball.

He smiled: “If Macca finds me I have the tap in, but I don’t get in the box too often – goals are from outside or set-pieces, a tap in would be nice.’’

Featherstone has been at Pools through the worst times, he’s had his critics. He’s played at the Vic when he was a vipers’ nest of abuse not too long ago. It’s a different outlook today.

He admitted: “It’s nice playing at the Vic now. First-half performance at 0-0 was positive and we could have been two-up. The lads are enjoying playing here and I’ve been here before when it’s tough to play here.

“But they’ve been brilliant the last few months and will be a massive part in getting us where we want to be.’’