It is not being negative to suggest that the Chester FC fans who make their way to the Deva on Saturday for one final time in 2017 will do so without much optimism.

But you just have to hope, given the nature of their performances in the defeats to FC Halifax Town and Guiseley, and the criticism that followed them, that the players come out fighting against Hartlepool United.

After seeing just three home wins all year, Blues supporters deserve that.

What should also motivate Marcus Bignot's squad - which is likely to be without Ross Hannah after he came off against Guiseley, and certainly the suspended Lathaniel Rowe-Turner, who has been hit with a three-game ban after being sent off in the same match - is the fact that their opponents are in even worse form.

Hartlepool, relegated from the Football League last season, were down to 10 men and heading for a sixth straight in all competitions on Boxing Day.

But, to the relief of the 2,200 travelling Pools supporters, Michael Woods scored a late equaliser to earn a 2-2 draw at Gateshead to stop the rot and ease some of the pressure on manager Craig Harrison.

It has been a tough first season at Victoria Park for the former Airbus UK Broughton boss.

Harrison, who was based in Chester until his appointment, made his name by leading The New Saints to six straight Welsh Premier League titles.

But he has found life harder in the National League and his side sit eight points outside of the play-off places ahead of the trip to the Swansway Chester Stadium.

James Akintunde gives Chester FC a first-minute lead at Hartlepool United back in August

Harrison has not been helped my injuries - Nicky Featherstone and Conor Newton pulled up in the warm-up before the Gateshead game, while former Blues captain Luke George is one of a number of players sidelined - nor the fact that the board that employed him in the summer put the club up for sale before Christmas.

But, speaking the draw at his hometown team Gateshead, the 40-year-old was remaining upbeat.

Harrison said: "I am a big believer in the idea that what doesn't kill you, only makes you stronger.

"And I think recent events have been character building. Not just for me as a manager, but also for the players as well.

"You start to wonder what you have done to deserve the kind of luck we have had with injuries lately. You set up all week to get through a game and then you're hit with two pull outs in the warm-up.

"I'm big enough to accept decisions go against you, but believe in a plan and go with it. We did that. With pace out wide we knew we could hurt them. The plan was to allow their defenders to have the ball and attack them from wide. It worked. They had possession but didn't have many chances in a game when they had an extra man.

"The belief was pleasing that we still went to win it. We didn't want the players to change the plan, but I believe we have to stick with it and not go gung-ho. We created opportunities.

"Our leveller was a reward and it was a travesty if we lost it at the end. They weren't better than us."