HARTLEPOOL United are 11 points from safety after a 19th game without victory, Stevenage the latest side to capitalise on their woeful run, writes Craig Hope.
The defeat was a fifth on the spin at Victoria Park and came courtesy of a goal in either half, Marcus Haber’s opener followed by a Lucas Akins penalty after the break.
John Hughes had made two changes with Middlesbrough loanee Charlie Wyke and Jack Baldwin recalled.
Pools started brightly and Andy Monkhouse fashioned a shooting chance for Steve Howard 20 yards out but his low drill was gathered by Steve Arnold in the visiting goal.
It was all Pools and Jordan Richards drew a fine, flying save from Arnold when he volleyed on target from 25 yards with a confident first-time blast on 14 minutes.
Within 60 seconds Arnold was again called into action, this time getting down to low to scramble clear after Wyke had glanced Evan Horwood’s centre towards the bottom corner.
So when Stevenage’s opener did arrive it was very much against the run of play.
Akins crossed from the right and Haber twice got the better of Sam Collins, first out-jumping the defender to head off the base of the post before reacting quickest to the rebound to poke home.
Pools, though, were undaunted by their concession and duly sought parity.
Jon Franks stung the palms of Arnold having weaved his way into the area and Tony Sweeney headed over at the far post after good work from Ritchie Humphreys in creating the opening.
But that spirited response petered out as the first half drew to a close and Stevenage led at the break.
Their advantage was doubled by the hour mark, Akins converting from the penalty spot after Richards was penalised for handball.
Sweeney then saw a low smash blocked inside a crowded goalmouth but the hosts’ first-half promise had faded.
There was a late chance for substitute Luke James to spark hope of a comeback but he volleyed against the crossbar after Richards had served up another inviting centre from the right.
And the woodwork denied Howard soon after when his header cracked the base of the post.