Sutton United host struggling Hartlepool United this Saturday with head coach Ian Baird labelling it a ‘must-win’ match for the U's.

United’s title hopes have been shattered in recent weeks with three defeats coming on the back of their match at Maidenhead being abandoned on Good Friday with the U’s winning 3-2.

A 3-0 home defeat to Bromley in front of the BT Sports cameras was followed by last Saturday’s 2-1 reverse at fellow promotion hopefuls AFC Fylde.

It was all looking good for Sutton who took the lead in the 20th minute through Tommy Wright who ran with the ball for 60 yards before firing low into the net.

However, late goals from Jonny Smith and the league’s leading scorer Danny Rowe saw the home side claim the points with the U’s making the second leg of their 600-mile round trip with nothing to show for their efforts.

On Tuesday night the U’s continued their punishing schedule by making the 500-mile round journey to Halifax Town and were made to pay for missing several good early chances when Mike Fondop-Talom put the Shayman ahead in the 17th minute.

United pushed hard for the leveller and were rewarded with 10 minutes to go when Ross Lafayette — back after a loan spell with division rivals Maidstone United — found the target with a close-range header.

But joy soon turned to despair for Baird and his boys when Ben Tomlinson grabbed what turned out to be the winning goal in the 89th minute.

The defeat means Sutton have dropped to third place in the Vanarama National League - behind Macclesfield and Tranmere - with four games to go.

Talking to SUFCtv after the game, Baird said: “To lose the game in the manner we did was very disappointing bearing in mind our second half performance. The first half performance was unacceptable.

“It’s all in our hands. We’ve got a must-win game on Saturday and then a trip to Maidenhead on Tuesday.

“We had some strong words for the players at half-time and the end.

"We’ve been on a journey, we’re little old Sutton and haven’t had an ounce of praise off anybody whatsoever.

“We certainly got praise off other managers but we haven’t been able to handle the intensity of other sides recently."

Hartlepool pay their first ever visit to the Knights Community Stadium tomorrow (Saturday) having suffered two consecutive 1-0 defeats.

An upturn in form earned Pools 11 points from a possible 18 in March with caretaker boss Matthew Bates being named manager of the month.

The two sides shared the spoils back in October when a 99th minute goal from Tommy Wright salvaged a point for the U's.

Baird will be hoping Sutton can go one better and grab all three points this time around but it won't be easy with Hartlepool fighting for their lives to avoid a second successive relegation.

“Now we’re in a situation of sink or swim," he said.

"If history tells us, the group of players we've had since I've been here with Dos (Paul Doswell, manager) have always, always, always swum.

"So we've got to be confident and believe in our players and that's what me, Dos and everyone else here will be doing."

Sutton United v Hartlepool United, Knights Community Stadium, Gander Green Lane, Sutton, SM1 2EY, Saturday, April 14, 3pm.