AS far as play-off experience goes, no-one can top Dave Challinor’s record – and Hartlepool United will be relying on that nous and knowledge as they take on Bromley in today’s eliminator tie.
When Pools appointed Challinor in November 2019, they were becoming a middling National League side. Hoping for a route back to the EFL but always falling short. They went through four managers in two-and-a-half years after relegation.
Now, however, Challinor has turned Pools into the force they always wanted to be at this level.
The former AFC Flyde boss has only known success in his previous post. Months before arriving at Victoria Park he led the Coasters to the Wembley final, only to lose to Salford. He led Flyde to six play-off campaigns and one with Colwyn Bay before that.
Challinor has also fixed Pools’ miserable home form – something they need to make the most of today against a Bromley side who earned a point at Victoria Park earlier in the season before beating a lacklustre Pools on Easter Monday.
The NLP’s Hartlepool United reporter Nick Loughlin casts his eye over the Pools
It’s fair to say that home form has been abject over the last decade. It’s been a miserable place at times. Challinor began to turn it around but this season, ironically without crowds, Pools have been a force on their own patch with 13 wins from 15 games.
Pools have been regularly active in the transfer market – and Challinor’s eye for a loan signing has been focused.
Striker Luke Armstrong returned to the north-east from Salford and his poaching ability proved the difference on so many occasions. His ability to score from inside the six-yard area cannot be underestimated.
Jamie Sterry was freed by Newcastle last summer. Lockdown meant he stayed in the area and Pools landed him at the turn of the year. He’s too good for this level and he and David Ferguson, wing back on the opposite flank, are a constant source of quality deliveries.
Rhys Oates came back to the club from Morecambe and returned a different player – 14 goals and three player of the year awards bear testimony to his improvement.
Pools have had a stutter, which coincided with their defeat at Bromley. With the Victoria Park faithful back inside, they will go into this test with belief and a crowd desperate for success behind them.