Although just a point against bottom-of-the-table Oldham Athletic on Saturday could be viewed as a disappointment for Hartlepool, it was still one more recorded on their way to achieving a potentially comfortable finish on their return to League Two.
After earning promotion back from the National League last season, few could have predicted that Hartlepool would be sitting in a strong position of 15th at the halfway stage of the campaign.
With nine points now being between the Monkey Hangers and Scunthorpe United in the drop zone, little pressure is on Graeme Lee’s side, and as a result their full focus can now turn to their cup tie on Tuesday.
Lee’s first match in charge of Hartlepool was the shock 3-0 triumph at League One giants Sheffield Wednesday back at the start of December, and with two more wins and just one defeat following in his next five games, confidence will be high in the League Two side’s camp ahead of their clash with another third tier opponent.
In addition to this, despite sitting in the bottom half of the table, Hartlepool possess the fourth-best home record across their division at this stage after picking up 24 points from their 12 home league games so far, so there are plenty of reasons for Lee’s side and their supporters to believe in another cup upset on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Bolton’s long-awaited return to action ended in disappointment on Saturday, as Ian Evatt’s side fell 2-1 to League One leaders Rotherham.
Eoin Doyle equalised for the Trotters just before half time, but despite matching their high-flying opponents for much of the encounter, they came away empty-handed come the final whistle.
That defeat was Bolton’s first fixture for three weeks, after their previous three matches against Wycombe Wanderers, Morecambe and Burton Albion had all been postponed due to COVID-19 issues.
Despite the previous encounters being played weeks before however, defeat at the New York Stadium was in fact Bolton’s third in a row, in Evatt’s side’s latest inconsistent run of form.
Three successive losses leave Bolton in 16th in League One, with just four points currently between themselves and a potential immediate return to the fourth tier.
The cup tie on Tuesday will provide a welcome distraction from looking over their shoulders though, in a competition that they have managed a 100% record in so far, after victories over Port Vale, Rochdale, Liverpool Under-21s and Fleetwood Town to date