NEALE Cooper was unable to inspire a turnaround in Hartlepool United’s home fortunes as they fell to a ninth straight defeat at Victoria Park.
The Scot was taking charge of his first home game since returning as manager last week but, despite ending a 13-hour period without a home goal from open play, Pools were again beaten to extend an unwanted club record run of losses.
Cooper made three changes to the side beaten at Sheffield United as teenager Luke James, Nathan Luscombe and Adam Boyd were all handed starts.
It was the visitors who enjoyed the first clear sight at goal as Andy Barcham burst free of Gary Liddle only for Scott Flinders to repel his low drive on 13 minutes.
But Pools were on the front foot for large parts of the opening half hour and James, in particular, was proving a real menace, one goalmouth centre deserving better as Shane Duffy swiped clear for the Iron.
Boyd then manufactured some space 30 yards out and was unlucky to see a cheeky chip drift wide of Sam Slocombe’s target.
But, as has been the case in each of Pools’ previous eight home outings, they duly fell behind.
Full-back Sam Togwell worked a smart interchange with Garry Thompson before striding into the area and tucking low into the bottom corner on 32 minutes.
The half-time whistle signalled a sorry run of 13 hours without a home goal for Pools.
But they emerged for the second half with renewed vigour and Boyd would have levelled with a 52nd-munte volley had Niall Canavan not blocked bravely on the edge of the six-yard area.
The same Pools man again went close just moments later when his header, from Ritchie Humphreys’ floated centre, glided narrowly wide.
But the hosts had Flinders to thank just after the hour mark when he stopped and held Barcham’s goalbound header from Ryan’s cross.
James Brown was brought on for Luscombe 20 minutes into the second period and he immediately came within a whisker of levelling.
James wrapped his boot around a right-wing delivery and Brown, arriving at the far post, was unlucky to see his downward header bounce up and over the crossbar.
Still, though, Pools remained vulnerable at the back and Barcham should have made the game safe when he wriggled free but Flinders again repelled before Michael O’Connor saw his blast from the rebound blocked on the line by Neil Austin.
But Thompson made no mistake when he burned by Peter Hartley 15 minutes from time before dinking nonchalantly over Flinders.
Andy Monkhouse then spurned a gilt-edged chance to set up a tense finale when he lashed wide from 12 yards after Tony Sweeney had headed into his path.
But within seconds Monkhouse had made amends when he drilled into the bottom corner from 25 yards with seven minutes left on the clock.
And Monkhouse should have levelled two minutes later when Sweeney’s centre found his forehead but the midfielder glanced wide from just six yards out.