Hartlepool manager Colin Cooper says former assistant boss Craig Hignett's switch to Middlesbrough is not an excuse for their recent dip in form.
Hignett left for the Teessiders in March with the club only five points off the League Two play-off places.
Since then Pools have lost their last five matches to slide from 10th in the table to 18th with four matches left.
Cooper told BBC Look North: "He's been a loss but I can't point to that as the reason we've lost the last five games."
"We've just come up short for whatever reason," he added.
The duo both worked as academy coaches at the Riverside before taking up the job at Victoria Park last summer and Cooper understands why his former colleague was in demand.
"When Craig was here we did bounce off each other," Cooper said.
"He's enjoying it at Middlesbrough and it's no coincidence he has become the link between Aitor Karanka and the players there.
"But the [Pools] players are working hard for me."
Hartlepool are yet to appoint a replacement for Hignett, with Cooper currently taking on first-team duties with help from youth development manager John Hewitson.
However, Cooper has begun the process of highlighting potential candidates.
"I've had conversations and I've got people earmarked," he said. "It's not been as easy as I thought it might be, but that's life."
"I have been asking questions and the club are trying to support me but it hasn't happened."
Pools have four games left to avoid the drop out of the Football League and are just three points above the relegation zone.