HARTLEPOOL United’s survival hopes have been strengthened as they lead 1-0 at the break against promotion-chasing Tranmere Rovers.
The better side during an entertaining half, Pools have the advantage thanks to Neil Austin’s 10th-minute strike having followed up from a Simon Walton penalty miss.
The visitors, with Luke James the heartbeat, got at their opponents from the off.
A fortuitous break presented Jon Franks with an early sight at goal but his 20-yard drive skipped wide of the home goal.
There was soon an opening at the other end and Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro swivelled 12 yards out, stealing a yard for a shot, before blazing over the crossbar.
Pools had their spot-kick on 10 minutes when, from Franks’ high free-kick into the area, Peter Hartley was manhandled by Middlesbrough loanee Ben Gibson.
Walton stepped up and, when his weak effort was palmed clear by Owain Fon-Williams, Austin steamed in to poke home the rebound.
James was causing the hosts all manner of problems and the teenager could have doubled the score on 38 minutes.
With Scott Flinders having just seconds earlier brushed a low drill from Andy Robinson on to the post, Pools broke upfield and, when Andy Monkhouse sprung James clear, he scampered into the area before firing across the face of goal and wide.