Hartlepool 2 Cheltenham 0: Pools seal first home league win

Pools' opener.

Pools' opener.

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An Aaron Downes own goal and Matthew Bates header ensured Hartlepool United secured their first home League Two win at the Northern Gas & Power Stadium since April.

Downes putting in his own net, following some expert work by Lewis Alessandra, on the stroke of half-time set Craig Hignett's men on their way. Before recently returned Bates nodded in his first goal in two years late on to make sure Pools sealed all three points at the Vic this campaign.

On the selection front, Northern Irish goalkeeper Trevor Carson jetted in from international duty to take his place in Hartlepool United's starting XI.

The keeper, who was an unused sub as his nation beat Azerbaijan in Belfast, caught an early morning flight to make sure he took his place in Craig Hignett's side.

The 28-year-old spent one season at Town, playing 51 games in 2014/15 before heading to the Northern Gas & Power Stadium.

Countryman Liam Donnelly was given the nod at right-back with Jordan Richards droping to the bench.

Elsewhere, Matthew Bates continued in the heart of defence but the game has again come around too soon for Rob Jones.

Pools dominated the opening exchanges of the game, without really creating too many clear cut chances.

In fact it was the visitors who, despite being second best, carved open a few opportunities of their own.

Harry Pell took advantage of some poor defending by Toto Nsiala to try his luck from distance, but Carson was not troubled. Then yet more sloppy stuff from the DR Congo international allowed Jack Munns an opening but his cross-cum-shot was high, wide and handsome.

Pools were dealt a massive blow in the 35th minute when Carson was forced off with a hand injury.

Pell's strike from distance was spilled by the stopper, only for him to recover to thwart Billy Waters. But in doing so Carson injured his hand and was replaced by Adam Bartlett.

That injury has surely thrown his involvement for Northern Ireland in serious doubt against San Marino this week.

On the stroke of half-time the game came alight. And it was a bit of magic from Alessandra that put Pools in front. Well, on first viewing, anyway.

A drop of the shoulder bought the forward a yard on the right-hand side of the visitors box and a curled effort left keeper Russell Griffiths with no chance.

On closer inspection Alessandra's shot was going well wide until Town skipper Aaron Downes steered it past his own keeper.

And with that came the half-time whistle, with Craig Hignett's men deservedly in front, having dominated possession, even without creating too many clear cut opportunities.

How Pools deal with the lead, having dropped some 20 points from winning positions, would be interesting in the second period.

And it was Town who were almost level immediately after the break - Pell's shot from distance, which was going wide, hit Nsiala and lobbed towards goal, and it took a tremendous stop from Bartlett to deny a leveller.

In the second period Pools looked a different beast.

Where they had lacked bite in the final third in the first, they looked sharp and full of attacking intent in the second.

But a warning shot was fired across their bows with 20 to go. Danger man Pell connected with a right wing cross, and much to Bartlett and Pools' delight it went inches over the top.

Cheltenham began to use high balls into the area and set-pieces to try and open Pools up, but on the break the hosts were still able to cause problems of their own, despite retreating a little.

Alessandra was chopped down by Jordan Cranston when he looked set to send Padraig Amond clear, then the Irish frontman hit the post with a innovative flick from an almost impossible angle.

Looking to put the icing on the cake, Alessandra should have netted when set free by Lewis Hawkins, but the goalscorer's effort from 10 yards, free in the area, went over the top.

And that is the way it stayed, as Pools ran out winners on home soil in the league for the first time since beating York City on April 16.