JOHN Hughes was quick to praise the mentality of his Hartlepool United players in what for many could have been their final game for the club.
Pool ended their relegation season with a point at Crawley, conceding in the last minute to deny them a second successive away win.
They finish on a four-game unbeaten run. Is it cause for optimism for next season in League Two? That probably depends on how many of the current squad stay and how many go.
The retained list will be announced in midweek and, with around a dozen out of contract, the scope is there for a shake-up.
One of those under contract and with his future up in the air scored Pool’s goals at the weekend.
Andy Monkhouse finishes as top scorer on seven goals for the season.
First he met a deft Luke James cross to head up over goalkeeper Paul Jones into the net before four minutes later getting on the end of James’ flick and lobbing beyond the stranded goalkeeper.
Pool had fallen behind five minutes before Monkhouse’s first goal when Josh Simpson tapped in.
It was Simpson who ensured Pool’s season didn’t end in an all-too-rare win when his shot deflected off Peter Hartley into the net.
Pool, backed by a throng of travelling fans dressed as penguins, did at least end on a positive note.
Now the work starts as Hughes and the club decide on players’ futures.
He said: “I’m looking at next season, character, the culture of the club, a winning mindset – and I saw that out there.
“It’s all on the back of a lot of players who don’t know where they are for next season – and to put a solid performance on like that was a credit to them all.”
CRAWLEY TOWN: Paul Jones; Sadler, Walsh, Connolly, Hunt, Adams (Hayes 67), Simpson, Bulman (Sparrow 67), Mike Jones, Clarke, Proctor. Subs (not used): Maddison, Dumbuya, Essam, Torres, Elford-Alliyu.
Goals: Proctor 70, 89.
HARTLEPOOL UNITED: Flinders; Holden, Collins, Hartley, Austin, Walton, Humphreys (Hawkins 88), Baldwin (Horwood 71), James (Rutherford 82), Franks, Monkhouse. Subs (not used): Rafferty, Luscombe, Rowbotham, Boagey.
Booked: Monkhouse, Baldwin.
Goals: Monkhouse 75, 79.
Attendance: 4,100. Referee: Keith Stroud (Hampshire).