HARTLEPOOL United have slipped into the Sky Bet League Two relegation zone after a 2-0 defeat to Plymouth Argyle.
Argyle had taken an early lead at Home Park in the 14th minute thanks to a strike from Marvin Morgan, who was given too much time and space to turn inside the area before shooting low past the outstretched hand of Scott Flinders.
Chances for the away side were few and far between, with the home side doing the majority of the pressing in the first half.
Pools enjoyed more of the game after the interval but were hit on the counter attack in the 77th minute through sub Nathan Thomas.
It capped a miserable week on the road for Colin Cooper’s side, who were beaten 5-1 at Northampton Town on Tuesday and defeat saw them slip into the bottom two.
Cooper made two changes going into the game at Home Park, with Marlon Harewood up front in place of on-loan Middlesbrough striker Charlie Wyke, out after picking up a head injury at Northampton Town in midweek.
The other change saw Jordan Richards come in at right-back for Stuart Parnaby, who hasn’t travelled with the squad.
Argyle boss John Sheridan named Hartlepool-born former Pools player Peter Hartley in the home side’s defence.
The home side had the better of the opening chances, with Scott Flinders twice called into making saves.
Argyle’s best chance came in the 7th minute, star striker Reuben Reid who already has five goals to his name this season twice had shots blocked inside the area.
The ball broke free to Dominic Blizzard but his shot was well dealt with by Flinders.
The early pressure from Plymouth finally paid off in the 14th minute through Marvin MORGAN, who was given far too much time and space to be able to fire across Flinders from 10 yards.
It was a smart finish from Morgan, who was playing on the left-wing and had cut in from that position to give them the lead after turning Richards.
The Pools defence looked shaky at times, possibly a hangover from the 5-1 thrashing at Northampton on Tuesday.
Pools did have a sight on goal after 20 minutes, a Ryan Brobbel corner was cut back to the edge of the penalty area but Brad Walker lifted his effort over the bar.
Harewood then showed good strength to nick the ball 30-yards out before sliding in a pass to the on-rushing Brobbel but he couldn’t get enough on it under pressure from Hartley.
The ball going well-wide for a goal-kick.
It is a huge pitch at Home Park and there was plenty of space for both sides to take advantage of on a warm afternoon in Plymouth.
Sheridan’s side had the clearer opportunities and could have gone into the half-time break with more than a one-goal lead.
With 33 minutes on the clock, Lewis Allessandra easily turned Walker on the edge of the area but his effort was comfortably high over the bar.
It was then the turn of Reid to have a sight on goal five minutes later.
He connected well to a left-wing cross from Morgan but his header was wide of Flinders’ left-hand post.
Blizzard then tried an ambitious effort from the edge of the penalty area after connecting with a volley from a Lee Cox cross.
It sailed high over the bar though.
Pools’ best chance of the half came moments before the whistle was blown. Harewood played in Franks but he couldn’t take advantage and Luke McCormick spread himself well.
Franks should have levelled but Pools went into the break losing 1-0.
HALF-TIME: Plymouth 1 Pools 0
Argyle striker Reid was replaced at half-time, with Nathan Thomas coming on. The top-scorer had taken a knock to his hip just before the half-time whistle.
It was an improved performance from the away side, who were enjoying more possession.
They should have equalised through Jack Compton after a mis-kick from Peter Hartley let Pools in down the right-wing.
Compton couldn’t make the most of the ball to him though, as his shot was saved.
Hartley, suffering with a thigh injury, was then subbed.
Just past the hour mark the lively Brobbel was appealing for a penalty. He ran onto a Harewood knock-down and got in between two defenders, before going down after having his shirt tugged.
Referee James Linington waved it away though.
Cooper than made his first sub of the afternoon in the 65th minute, Michael Woods replacing Franks who wasn’t best pleased about being subbed.
With 68 minutes on the clock Miller had a chance to equalise for Pools after good build-up play between Compton and Harewood.
But Miller, who was leaning back, struck his shot over the bar.
It was an attempt, at least, and Pools needed to have more a cutting edge in the Argyle area.
The killer-blow came in the 77th minute when Argyle double their lead on the counter attack.
Blizzard played in sub Thomas who ran in on goal before coolly finishing past Flinders to give the home side a two-goal advantage.
There was a hint of offside but the linesman was adamant Thomas was onside.
Darren Holden, who was waiting to come on before the goal, entered the fray in place of Brobbel. Holden went wide left with Compton switched to the right wing.
The travelling supporters were not happy to see Brobbel depart.
Pools had run out of steam and the home side almost made it 3-0 through Thomas whose cheeky lob from the edge of the area was wonderfully saved by Flinders,
The backpeddling Pools keeper just got his fingers to the ball to tip it over the bar.
Allessandra had a golden chance to make it 3-0 in the final seconds but dragged his shot wide.
There was to be no way back for Pools who capped a miserable week on the road with a 2-0 defeat to Plymouth.
FULL-TIME: Plymouth 2 Pools 0
Pools (4-4-2): Flinders, Austin, Bates (C), Harrison, Richards, Brobbel (Holden, 77), Miller, Walker, Compton, Franks (Woods, 65), Harewood.
Subs Not Used: Woodman, Duckworth, Collins, Jones, Hawkins.
Plymouth (4-1-4-1): McCormick, Mellor, Hartley (McHugh, 56), Purrington, Nelson (C), Cox, Allessandra, Blizzard, O’Connor, Morgan (Harvey, 88), Reid (Thomas, 45).
Subs Not Used: Bittner, Norburn, Allen, Bentley.
Goal: Morgan (14), Thomas (77).
Referee: James Linington (Newport)
Plymouth Argyle, Home Park.