Flinders focused on closing play-off gap

The Advertiser Series: PLAY-OFF AIM: Pools goalkeeper Scott Flinders PLAY-OFF AIM: Pools goalkeeper Scott Flinders

SCOTT FLINDERS admits he isn’t one for drooling over his recent achievements – but continuing the fine Victoria Park defensive form wouldn’t go amiss.

Hartlepool United tonight take on Mansfield at Victoria Park, still smarting from Friday’s 1-0 defeat at Oxford United.

With back to back home games this week, Cheltenham are next up on Saturday, Pools need to maintain their current run of impressive home form.

Flinders has not conceded at home since January 11, a run of four convincing wins and a 0-0 draw making Victoria Park a happy place right now.

“We’ve had four away games in which we haven’t really done as well as we can,’’ he reflected. “Oxford and those games have been a missed opportunity, but then on the other hand in recent seasons our home form hasn’t been as good.

“Recently, home form has been good so we go back to the Vic and we need to keep on winning there and let’s see what comes away from home.

“Losing at Oxford makes it a bit harder for us to make the play-offs, but it’s about challenges and let’s see what the next eight games bring and meet the challenge of getting as many points as we can.’’ Pools are, with eight games left this season, some seven points shy of the top seven after Southend’s strong 3-0 win over Oxford last night.

Five of their remaining games are at home and last time out at home they whacked Bristol Rovers 4-0.

“We need to be solid at the back and we have been at home of late,’’ added Flinders.

“There’s been a special bond formed at home and we want to keep it up and hopefully start well like we did last time out.

“That was probably the best start at home we’ve had since I came here. It’s good to be playing at home right now, but records and statistics aren’t something I look at.

“All we can do is go out there as a team and perform like we all know we can.

“The gaffer said after the game on Friday what is expected of us all now.’’ Pools beat Mansfield 4-1 earlier in the season, but they will be without the suspended Simon Walton this evening after his red card on Friday.

The midfielder will miss just one game and is likely to be replaced by Antony Sweeney this evening.

He passed the ten booking mark on Friday in being sentoff, but sits out only tonight’s game because of the red card.

He will be available for the Cheltenham game when he will be one caution away from a two-game ban.

Flinders added: “We know what to expect from Mansfield and how they play from the game earlier in the season – aerial bombardment and stuff like that.

“We fully expect what they will throw at us and we have to be up to the task.

“It’s a blow to lose Si, but hopefully there’s lads in the squad who can step up.

“We’ve lost Neil Austin and Andy Monkhouse to injury and now Si to suspension and those three guys have great experience.

“Maybe we lacked a bit of that experience at Oxford to see us over the line, but it does give other players opportunities.’’ Flinders recently became the first Pools goalkeeper to make 200 Football League appearances.

He would love to cap the season off with a playoff appearance at Wembley, but accepts it’s going to be tough.

“Losing at Oxford means it’s harder for us to make the play-offs,’’ he admitted.

“There’s eight to go and it’s a challenge and we all had one eye on the weekend’s games after we played.

“It’s a nice achievement to make 200 appearances in the league for the club, but we have a bigger picture and a bigger challenge which we won’t give up as long as there’s still enough points to play for. It’s a challenge to pick up as many points as we can.’’

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