Hartlepool United v Crawley Town: What's the mood in the Pools Camp? What threat do John Askey's side pose to Reds? Will the winner of this game stay up? - opposition view

Saturday sees Crawley Town travel to Hartlepool United knowing a win puts one foot – and maybe a little bit more – into safety from League Two relegation.
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Following Tuesday night’s results, Reds are now three points clear of Hartlepool United with three games left. A win at the Suit Direct Stadium will leave them just needing one point from the last two games to ensure EFL football for another season. See the relegation state of play here.

But we all know it won’t be as easy as that. We asked Joe Ramage, who covers the Pools for our sister title the Hartlepool Mail, what the state of play was at Hartlepool and how he thinks this weekend and the rest of the season will go.

Three games of the season remaining, what’s the mood like in camp?

HARTLEPOOL, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 09: David Ferguson of Hartlepool United in action during the Sky Bet League Two match between Hartlepool United  and Northampton Town at Victoria Park on October 09, 2021 in Hartlepool, England. (Photo by Pete Norton/Getty Images)HARTLEPOOL, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 09: David Ferguson of Hartlepool United in action during the Sky Bet League Two match between Hartlepool United  and Northampton Town at Victoria Park on October 09, 2021 in Hartlepool, England. (Photo by Pete Norton/Getty Images)
HARTLEPOOL, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 09: David Ferguson of Hartlepool United in action during the Sky Bet League Two match between Hartlepool United and Northampton Town at Victoria Park on October 09, 2021 in Hartlepool, England. (Photo by Pete Norton/Getty Images)
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It’s a funny old game. Had this question been last week there would have been a more uplifting answer, but back-to-back defeats at this stage of the season will do a lot to dent morale. And it’s not just the defeats, it’s the manner of them. Both at Newport and again at Salford, Hartlepool were rolled over quite easily - far too easily considering their position. Where up until this point under John Askey their spirit and fighting character had been on display, here they have been beaten with relative ease. It’s a concern given that they must now win two of their last three games, minimum, and that may not yet be enough.

How have Hartlepool been under John Askey?

For the most part they have been improved. One look at the form table would suggest he would have them relatively comfortable away from the bottom two without threatening the top half of the table. In the main they have been better organised and have created plenty of chances. Their application and endeavour to continue being a threat deep into stoppage time has been a trait which has typified them prior to these two away fixtures. The last two games have felt as though they were from the first half of the season where they have given up opportunities at will and shown a soft underbelly. There’s no more room for that.

What are the threats Hartlepool pose and how do you see them lining up to face Crawley?

They have been a goal threat on occasion. Only Harrogate have scored more than them in the bottom half of League Two, so you would fancy them to score, particularly having now gone two without. Jamie Sterry’s return at Salford was a boost, and although he had a night to forget, David Ferguson has been edging back to his old self under Askey with those two operating in the wing-back roles. But for the last two games, like most, Dan Kemp has been mightily impressive since his loan move whilst Connor Jennings is in decent form, particularly at the Suit Direct Stadium. I’d expect all of those to start. The key decision for Askey will be who starts in defence. Having trialed a back four at Newport, Askey reverted back to three centre-backs at Salford. Both failed to work, but the three centre-backs has been the go-to for him so I suspect that’s how he will start with Dan Dodds on the right and Edon Pruti on the left. The decision then comes who will operate in the middle. Taylor Foran, 19, has shown his inexperience in recent weeks and this might not be an ideal game for the Arsenal man given its magnitude. But with Euan Murray possibly out for the season and Peter Hartley still struggling, Askey’s options are limited. We could see Matt Dolan anchor the defence, but it is certainly an area of weakness.

How do you see this game going?

It’s do or die as far as Hartlepool are concerned. I’ve said a number of times since Askey’s arrival that if they were able to reach this fixture within striking distance of Crawley then you would probably have taken it. But the aforementioned morale coming into this game off the back of two poor performances has to be a concern. Hartlepool have got to go for it, and Askey knows that. He referenced this fixture multiple times in his post-match duties following the defeat at Salford and even conceded they had ‘one more chance’ left. With their biggest crowd of the season expected, the atmosphere should be hostile for Crawley. Whether Hartlepool can use that and translate it into a positive performance remains to be seen. It’s going to be nervy. The one thing which may play into Hartlepool’s favour is that Crawley may be a little unsteady in terms of how they play it. A draw is absolutely fine for them. I do think Hartlepool will edge it. Crawley have only won once away from home and Hartlepool are unbeaten in five at home. I think the crowd will help them get over the line. 1-0

Will the winner of this game stay up? How do you see the remainder of the season playing out?

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The odds are still firmly stacked against Hartlepool, even if they win this game as they must. Barrow’s defeat at Grimsby means their season could be about over for their trip to Hartlepool next weekend but that is still no gimmie. Hartlepool then have to go to Stockport on the final day who could still have an automatic promotion spot to play for. The script writers have had Hartlepool’s season going down to that trip to Edgeley Park since day one and everything which comes with that game with Dave Challinor. And yet I look at Crawley’s two fixtures beyond this weekend and sense there will be cautious optimism. In Walsall, Crawley are playing a side who have won two games in their last 21 before Scott Lindsey returns to his old club, another side who have seen their form drop off a cliff with one win in 10. Hartlepool need to win their two home fixtures and then they’re going to need a little bit of fortune, I suspect. Either way, it’s going to be tense.

You can see the latest Hartlepool United news here and the latest Crawley Town news here.