ANTONY Sweeney scored his 50th goal for Hartlepool United as they moved up to eighth in League One following a 2-0 victory over Plymouth Argyle.
The 27-year-old was a surprise inclusion in the starting line-up having been forced off with an ankle injury during the midweek defeat at Carlisle United.
But the master marksman was on hand to score Pools’ opening goal before being stretchered off late in the game following a knock on the same ankle.
The visitors had started brightly and Rory Fallon sprung the offside trap on six minutes but couldn’t beat Scott Flinders at his near post, the home keeper turning a crisp volley away for a corner.
But Pools soon found their rhythm and the deadlock was broken on 20 minutes following great work by Ryan Donaldson.
The on-loan Newcastle United forward wriggled free of Jim Patterson tight to the by-line before sliding a well-weighted ball into the path of Sweeney who turned home from just two yards out taking his tally for the season to 13.
Argyle were soon on the offensive in search of a leveller and Onismor Bhasera stung the palms of Flinders with a vicious free-kick from 25 yards.
That was the Zimbabwean midfielder’s last contribution, however, and in the 35th minute he left the field on a stretcher with what looked like a nasty ankle injury.
Pools finished the half the stronger of the sides and should have stretched their lead when James Brown stole in behind the backline only for his close-range poke to be diverted wide by the toe of keeper Romain Larrieu.
Skipper Sam Collins then went close in first-half injury-time as his header, from Leon McSweeney’s corner, looped inches wide with Larrieu beaten.
Argyle, though, again came back at their hosts after the interval and Flinders had to be on his guard to deny Yannick Bolasie after the Congolese had tried to squeeze a 10-yard stab between the keeper and his near upright.
Pools managed to ride a period of visiting pressure with their lead intact and duly doubled their advantage on 64 minutes, Collins bundling into the back of the net from point-blank range after Peter Hartley had turned Leon McSweeney’s free-kick back across goal.
The scorer was then the hero at the other end as he produced a last-ditch block to deny Stephane Zubar a certain goal after the defender had blasted towards an empty net from the edge of the six-yard box.
Substitutes Colin Larkin and Fabian Yantorno both had chances to put some gloss on the scoreline but were thwarted by Larrieu in the closing stages.
Pools: Flinders, Haslam, Collins, Hartley, Horwood, McSweeney, Sweeney (Gamble 85), Liddle, Monkhouse, Donaldson (Yantorno 77), Brown (Larkin 74)
Subs n/u: Rafferty, Humphreys, Murray, Boyd
Plymouth Argyle: Larrieu, Zubar, Nelson, Paterson (Patterson 79), N’Gala, Fletcher, Peterlin, Bolasie, Bhasera (Duguid 35), Mason, Fallon.
Subs n/u: Button, Young, Patterson, Walton, Timar.