By Charlie Summerbell
October 21 2012
It's not even November yet, and the r-word is being mentioned with increasing regularity at Victoria Park, where Hartlepool United are looking as far away from chalking up a much-needed win as they are on their travels.
And it could get worse on Tuesday night, when they travel for a bottom v second-bottom game that could have a major bearing on the rest of the season.
With barely as quarter of the season gone, Pools are staring relegation full in the face.
They are playing without confidence and their form is flat from back to front. If it wasn’t for goalkeeper Scott Flinders, man of the match again in the 1-0 home defeat against Crawley, the situation might be even worse.
Hope Akpan scored the winner for Richie Barker’s team with less than 15 minutes on the clock, and for the next hour and a quarter Pools demonstrated why they are second bottom.
Because they are not good enough.
Neil Austin brought two saves out of Crawley keeper Paul Jones, but that was as close as Pools got.
They look a team short of every quality they are going to need to get out of trouble, and the game ended with angry fans calling for the head of boss Neale Cooper.
“Players have to have the confidence to go and make things happen,” Cooper told the club website. “But too often today we made bad decisions even when we were in easy possession of the ball.
“We’re in a hard place at the moment, but you have to fight and one or two have to do a lot better.”
It all means that Monday’s game at bottom club Bury is a real clash of the minnows … two teams in the habit of losing fighting for survival with threequarters of the season still to go.
Hardly glamorous, is it?