Dave Challinor believes Stockport did not even hit top gear despite watching a 5-0 crushing of his former club Hartlepool.
County moved up to 12th but still have a five-point gap to make up to the League Two play-off spots because of Mansfield’s stoppage-time winner against Colchester.
But Challinor can at least be satisfied with the manner of the result at Pools, where the home fans who once worshipped him started emptying the stadium well before the end.
Challinor, whose side have won six of their last nine in the league, said: “It’s nice to come back and win, I had great times here. To come and win convincingly, you could see the ground emptying which I completely get.
“It was a great result for us. In terms of an overall performance, we have been better and lost. But today we were functionally very good and clinical. That is the pleasing thing.
“If we can get all the bits combined together over a consistent period we will do well.
“There were real positives. It is an important week for us. We have a few niggles, have a few on loan, low on numbers, we need to get through the month and see what happens in January. But it is an important month against teams around us.
“This could be a pivotal part and we want to pick up points. We’re moving up. The more teams we can pick off the better it looks.”
Challinor left Pools in November 2021 and this was the first time he had returned to the club he led to promotion back to the English Football League.
Two first-half goals from Kyle Wootton did the damage before Paddy Madden added the third in the 61st minute and substitute Callum Camps and Will Collar completed an emphatic scoreline.
Keith Curle was confirmed as Hartlepool’s latest permanent manager on Saturday morning when he penned an 18-month deal after a period as interim boss.
Curle, whose side have won just twice in the league this season, said: “It’s not good enough. The timing of it, me committing to the club, the club committing to me. Together we know changes need to happen at the football club.
“Stockport were eight or nine places above us and not one of our players would get in their team on today’s performance.
“I know what I have available for the next five games and I will get the best out of what I have got until the window is opened.
“Look at last week’s performance against Harrogate – we had 16 minutes today until we gifted them a goal. There was nothing in either box that gave us alarm up until then.
“The second goal straight after that is what we seem to be like right now. We need to find the level of improvement we need.
“I understand fans’ frustrations, they don’t want to see their team humiliated. I know they will be back. I understand their frustration, disappointment, I am here to bring good times and get the mood changed here. They know we need them more than any time before.”
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