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Hughes highlights critical run

Hartlepool manager John Hughes believes the next seven games will prove crucial to his side's survival chances this season.

Hughes, who replaced Neale Cooper as boss in November with the club rooted to the foot of League One, has won only one of his first nine matches in charge, but with draws at Walsall and Shrewsbury and three defeats by a single goal, the Scot remains upbeat about his side's chances.

Pools, 12 points adrift of safety with 20 games remaining and with only two wins to their name all season, will now play five of their next seven fixtures at Victoria Park, starting on Saturday with free-falling Colchester.

"This next month is massive," Hughes said. "There's no point hiding from it now. We have to stand up and be prepared to take it on the chin. We have been working towards this and have to start turning unlucky losses into draws and unlucky draws into wins.

"We have to be spirited. It's a great time to play Colchester. We have to jump on them and use their situation to our advantage.

"Colchester will be lacking in confidence, but we can't get too carried away. Let's make sure of a home win. We're more than capable of beating them.

"This period could be our turning point and we've spoken about that and about turning Victoria Park into a fortress like it was not too long ago here.

"The more experienced players here have already spoken about how other teams used to fear coming here. We always used to make it so difficult for visiting teams to take something, even if the team wasn't playing well.

"I'm not one for making excuses, but in three or four games since I've been here - against Stevenage, Preston and Oldham - we should have taken something, if not, we should have won them.

"And this is what we've been working hard at, getting to the stage where we can start to pick up the results that could get us going."