Former Cardiff City manager Dave Jones has left Hartlepool United.
Jones, his assistant, former Bluebirds player Kevin Cooper and coach Alex Armstrong, have all parted company with the League Two club.
Hartlepool plunged into the bottom two, dropping behind Newport County, and are in grave danger of being relegated.
Senior player Matthew Bates is taking charge, assisted by club captain Billy Paynter, coach Stuart Parnaby and physio Ian Gallagher. They have two games to save the the club’s Football League lives, starting with Saturday’s trip to Cheltenham.
United earned only four wins under Jones in 18 matches and they lost 2-0 against Barnet at home on Saturday.
Jones vowed to stay in charge, but the club owners, JPNG, seemed to have taken action to end his three-month stay.
Sky Sports presenter Jeff Stelling, a Hartlepool fan, resigned as club president and said after the Barnet match: “It’s not personal Dave, but for God’s sake, for the good of the club go now.
“Walk now. It’s 13 points from 51. This is not your level of football.”
Newly-appointed player-coach Paynter questioned Jones’ tactics after he set up the team with a lone striker, Rhys Oates, against Barnet.
“I honestly thought we’d go two up top,” said Painter. “I don’t know what the manager was doing, but Oatesy seemed very isolated.
“I felt after the Leyton Orient game that we’d be guaranteed to get a reaction. Some players froze, which is disappointing, when you actually need men to stand up and fight for the shirt, fight for the cause.”
Newport County were 11 points adrift of safety at one stage, but are now third from bottom with matches against Carlisle United away and Notts County at home.
Hartlepool travel to Cheltenham Town this Saturday before playing Doncaster Rovers at home on the final day of 2016-17.
While United appear to be a team in crisis – their team performance against was described as ‘lifeless’ by the local media – Newport manager Mike Flynn is keen to finish the job he has started and keep his club in the Football League.
County have won six of their 10 matches since Flynn took charge, keeping four clean sheets in their last five fixtures.
“I want to finish the job. Getting this close now and not doing it would be heartbreaking for me and the club,” said Flynn.
Ryan Bird scored their winner against Accrington Stanley and Newport could secure Football League football for another season if they win at Carlisle on Saturday.
“It was a great three points and I’m over the moon,” says Flynn. “If fingers are crossed and lady luck smiles on us we could be safe, but all we can do is take care of what we can look after and we’ll see what happens at five o’clock next week.”
“It’s a good record, but there’s nothing achieved yet.
“It’s not about Michael Flynn, it’s about keeping Newport County in the Football League and we’ll worry about people’s views after that.
“It has been a great turnaround and the boys have been fantastic. Again today, their work rate, their application and togetherness was everything that we’ve asked for.
“I would have wanted a few more goals because I’m going greyer by the minute but I’ll take another couple of 1-0 wins before the end of the season, definitely.”