CREWE Alexandra boss Dave Artell says his players face a simple choice; work hard or face relegation from League Two.

The Alex succumbed to a 4-0 defeat at fellow strugglers Hartlepool United on Tuesday, which followed a 2-1 home reverse to Stevenage on Saturday.

Saturday’s loss ended a brief run of three games unbeaten for Artell’s side, who now sit 20th in the League Two table.

With the gap between The Alex and the relegation zone currently standing at seven points with 12 games of the season remaining, the threat of back-to-back demotions is small but Artell believes the danger is more severe than it looks.

He now takes his side to Fratton Park on Saturday to face promotion-chasing Portsmouth, kick off 3pm. Pompey are currently unbeaten in their last five League Two games.

“I’ve told them in no uncertain terms that they have a choice. You either work hard or its oblivion in this game,” Artell told after the Hartlepool game.

“It’s that simple, you don’t want a relegation into non-league on your CV.

“No-one here wants that and the players have to ask themselves some questions because we cannot do it all for them.

“We only have a small influence on the game from the sidelines and at 3pm or 7.45pm it is up to the players to rise to the challenge.”

Crewe dominated the first half at Victoria Park on Tuesday, only for Lewis Alessandra to give Pools the lead on the stroke of half time.

The visitors then collapsed in the final 20 minutes after Padraig Amond had doubled Hartlepool’s lead.

Alessandra and Nathan Thomas scoring to complete a chastening evening for The Alex.

Artell was pleased with his side until Alessandra’s opener but said there was “a lack of structure and belief” after the interval.

“There was nothing in the game in the first half and I thought that we were the better side,” the manager said.

“They have scored in the 45th minute and it was the same story after that I’m afraid.

“The fragility was there again after going behind and it can’t happen. There was a lack of structure and belief after that.

“When you are 1-0 down you are still in the game.

“You are in the game at 2-0, they came back at Blackpool. They did it and proved it and they have got to believe themselves.”

On Saturday, Crewe were reduced to ten men early on when striker Chris Dagnall was dismissed and were 2-0 down at the break through goals from Matt Godden and Fraser Franks for visitors Stevenage.

James Jones’ penalty reduced the arrears, but Stevenage held on for the three points.