HARTLEPOOL United’s search for a new manager may be closing in but their quest for victory continues following tonight’s 2-0 defeat at home to Tranmere Rovers.
With several candidates watching on from the directors box at Victoria Park – including Phil Brown, Craig Short and Colin Cooper – Pools’ winless run extended to 15 matches.
It was a much-improved display from Micky Barron’s men – who were thumped 6-1 at Chesterfield on Saturday – but a second-half penalty from Andy Robinson and a late strike from Cole Stockton means the hosts stay eight points from safety at the foot of League One.
Pools, unsurprisingly, made a nervy start and survived two one-on-one situations inside the first six minutes.
First, Liam Palmer was sprung clear by Robinson and, when he rounded Scott Flinders, the forward managed to hook on target from the narrowest of angles.
Neil Austin had read the danger, however, and recovered to hack from the line.
But within 60 seconds Jake Jervis escaped Sam Collins to scamper in on goal only to lift his effort wide of both Flinders and the upright.
Just before the half-hour mark the ever-dangerous Palmer weaved his way into the penalty area only to see a bottom-corner-bound smash deflect narrowly wide.
Pools, though, found a footing in the game and were much the better of the sides during the remainder of the half, Austin going closest with a long-range drive which veered wide.
The hosts were first to show after the break and Jonathan Franks seized upon a Steve Howard headed to flick to find himself in on goal.
The winger sprinted free of the trailing Ash Taylor but his low steer could not evade Owain Fon Williams and the keeper palmed clear.
But Tranmere enjoyed a pair of good openings either side of the hour mark, Robinson first seeing a powerful blast shovelled over the crossbar by Flinders before, from the resultant corner, Ben Gibson somehow headed wide when unmarked from just five yards out.
Substitute Adam McGurk was proving a real nuisance and the Rovers wideman stung the palms of Flinders with a vicious drive on 67 minutes.
But the opener did arrive 11 minutes from time when Peter Hartley felled James Wallace as the visiting skipper forced his way into the area.
Robinson stepped up from 12 yards and duly sent Flinders in the wrong direction.
And the points were sealed in stoppage time when Stockton drifted infield from the left before bending into the bottom corner from 20 yards.
SEE Thursday’s Mail for reports/ pictures/ analysis/ reaction