HARTLEPOOL United are trailing 2-0 at home to Exeter City at the half way stage of their final match of the Sky Bet League Two campaign.
Goals from the dangerous Jimmy Keohane and David Wheeler have given Paul Tisdale’s side the lead, while Jack Compton missed a penalty for Pools in the 45th minute - the last action of the half.
Boss Colin Cooper had made two changes with James Poole and Compton handed starts against the Grecians, with Poole replacing Jack Barmby, who was ruled out with an ear infection.
Compton started on the left-flank of the diamond formation in place of Andy Monkhouse, while Jonathan Franks continued up front with Marlon Harewood.
Pools’ top scorer Luke James returned to the squad and is on the bench after an ankle knock.
Cooper also named 17-year-old Connor Smith in the squad for the first time with the teenager starting on the bench.
It was a fairly even opening few minutes but in the 7th minute Paul Tisdale’s side almost sneaked in front.
Matt Grimes’ corner was just about held by Scott Flinders, who was falling backwards towards the goal, to deny the nearby Jimmy Keohane from capitalising.
In the 10th minute, Michael Duckworth linked up well with Poole and Franks before the ball eventually fell to Compton on the left wing.
His cross was deflected by Grecians captain Scott Bennett and it looped over the defence but the ball didn’t fall to Harewood who was ready to pounce.
Exeter’s Craig Woodman then found himself free inside the Pools box after good build up play from Matt Grimes and Keohane but his wild shot was high over the bar.
It was a warning to Cooper’s side though, who need to liven up if the season wasn’t to end with a whimper.
Duckworth struck the ball well from inside the penalty area but his right-footed blast was easily held by Christy Pym to deny the right-back his first of the season.
Moments later and the away side were in front.
Young Player of the Year Brad Walker was tackled on the half-way line in the 25th minute and Keohane broke free to curl a right-footed shot from distance past Flinders off the crossbar and in.
It was a lovely finish but all too easy for Tisdale’s men, with Pools not getting close enough to the opposition in this end of season encounter.
In the 32rd minute, from a Pools corner, Exeter broke free and almost doubled their lead but Keohane’s scuffed shot was well saved by Flinders and Duckworth cleared the ball.
At times Pools played some nice football but the end product was either wasted or took too long to get a cross into the box and Exeter had time to reorganise.
A riled up Harewood and Walker both had ambitious efforts on goal - with the 18-year-old’s volley ending up as a thrown in for the away side.
But Cooper’s men were unable to take advantage of the few chances they did create.
David Wheeler then doubled their lead in the 44th minute - taking down a long ball past the onrushing Flinders on the edge of the area before rolling it into the net.
In a frantic end to the half, Pools were then awarded a penalty kick after Poole was felled by Jordan Tillson on the edge of the penalty area.
Compton stepped up to take it but his shot was saved by Pym who dived to his left to palm it away as Pools went into the break trailing 2-0.
Half Time: Pools 0 Exeter 2
Pools (4-4-2): Flinders, Duckworth, Collins (C), Harrison, Holden, Oliver, Walker, Compton, Poole, Franks, Harewood.
Subs: Rafferty, Rowbotham, Richards, Jones, Hawkins, James, Smith.
Exeter (4-4-1-1): Pym, Woodman, Bennett (C), Sercombe, Moore-Taylor, Dawson, Keohane, Tillson, Grimes, Wheeler, Gill.
Subs: Krysiak, Butterfield, Baldwin, Nichols, Gosling, Jay, Watkins.
Referee: Darren Deadman (Cambridgeshire)