Lowdown on Chesterfield's next opponents Hartlepool United in big National League clash

Chesterfield travel to title contender Hartlepool United on Saturday in front of the BT Sport cameras (5.20pm KO).

Thursday, 29th April 2021, 11:15 am

The third-placed Pools, three points off the top, are unbeaten in 15 matches and have won 11 of their last 12 games on home turf.

The Spireites, currently sixth, head to Victoria Park unbeaten in their last six away fixtures.

We spoke to Hartlepool United journalist, Dominic Scurr, of the Hartlepool Mail, to get the lowdown on the Pools...

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Chesterfield visit Hartlepool United on Saturday (5.20pm KO).
Chesterfield visit Hartlepool United on Saturday (5.20pm KO).

What's Hartlepool's impressive form and season based on?

Manager Dave Challinor has to take a lot of credit for the squad he's been able to assemble on a limited budget, using the loan market effectively to turn Pools into a genuine title contender.

Keeping a familiar core in terms of central defenders, midfielders and goalkeeper has also helped as it's been built around and improved on as the season progressed.

The signing of Luke Armstrong up front and Jamie Sterry at right-back have proven to be catalysts in the club's title charge.

It's a cliche but the overall bond and chemistry the players evidently share on and off the pitch has really helped create a unified squad this season, all pulling in the same direction. That hasn't always been the case at Hartlepool over the past few seasons but things have finally clicked into place nicely this season.

What's the feeling around the club ahead of the final run-in?

As a club, Hartlepool have earned the right to be confident going into the final six games of their season. The play-offs are almost guaranteed and they're still in with a realistic shot of the title.

While Hartlepool are historically susceptible to choking on the big occasions, this season the squad have coped brilliantly under pressure and have picked up impressive wins against the majority of sides in and around the play-off places.

Confidence is high on the back of a 15 game unbeaten run and a 7-2 win at Wealdstone last time out.

But this is not a familiar position for supporters, who haven't witnessed a top half finish let alone a promotion charge in 14 years. There is certainly a sense of optimistic trepidation among the supporters but all in all, a very positive place to be at the moment.

What's your gut feeling on where they will finish?

I'm always a pessimist when it comes to things like this. Expect the worst and hope for the best!

As good as Pools have been over the past couple of months, I can't shake the feeling that they'll just fall slightly short in terms of their league position. That opinion may change over the course of what could prove to be a crucial bank holiday weekend at the top of the table but for the time being, that's where my gut feeling is at.

Apart from Sutton, who just seem to be doing enough to hang on, the sides at the top are all in excellent form so it's just a case of who'll blink first.

Given Stockport County's form, impressive goal difference and strength of their squad, I think they'll be able to catch Pools and overtake them into the top three places.

Given that Hartlepool currently have a decent points cushion on Halifax Town, I'd still expect a top four finish minimum. Fourth is realistic at this stage and I don't know a Pools fan who wouldn't have taken that at the start of the season.

How much of a blow is Stockport recalling Richard Bennett?

It's a blow in the fact that Bennett was very impressive for Pools over the four games he played, scoring five goals. But it was something Pools had always expected and planned for. Bennett was never likely to stay for longer than the initial 28 days and the side remains well stacked in attack with Rhys Oates, Luke Armstrong and new signings Danny Elliott and Harvey Saunders.

Who are they key men for Hartlepool?

Where to start! Up front, Rhys Oates and Luke Armstrong have 22 goals between them in the last 25 league outings. The pair have formed an excellent strike partnership and nullifying them will be the key to getting a result for Chesterfield on Saturday.

Nicky Featherstone remains as influential as ever in midfield and always keeps Pools ticking along nicely with a great range of passing and ability to take the ball and recycle possession under pressure. Gavan Holohan has also scored four goals in his last five outings so will be one to watch for sure.

In defence, former Spireite Gary Liddle has been impervious so far this season. After a lengthy injury lay-off following Hartlepool's 2-1 win at the Technique Stadium back in October, Liddle's return has resulted in a marked improvement at the back for Pools. And after playing 18 games so far this season, he is still yet to be on the losing side.

Any injuries/suspensions for this one?

Hartlepool have a few longer term injuries at the moment. Goalkeeper Ben Killip is out for the rest of the season with elbow ligament damage, young forward Joe Grey is also out for the season with a stress fracture in his back. Ryan Johnson is nearing a return from a hyper-extended knee injury but Saturday may just come around too soon for him.

Score prediction?

Pools have been in exceptional form at Victoria Park over the past few months with 11 wins and a draw in their last 12 outings on home turf. All good runs must come to an end at some point but we've reached the point in the season where both teams will be desperate to avoid defeat and I'd expect a cagey game as a result. Given both team's impressive defensive records this season, I'm going to have to be boring and go for a 0-0 draw although I certainly wouldn't rule out a narrow 1-0 win for either side.