HARTLEPOOL United suffered a painful afternoon in today’s Sky Bet League Two trip to Northampton Town.
Michael Duckworth, recalled to the starting XI for first first game since the New Year’s Day defeat to Bury, saw his comeback last less than 11 minutes.
The full-back was stretchered off with his leg in a brace.
And deep into the six minutes of stoppage time added on for his treatment, Northampton took the lead, Mathias Kouo-Doumbe bundling the ball in from close range.
After conceding seconds before the break, they did so again just 60 seconds intro the second period, Bren Dickenson scoring from close range from Chris Hackett’s cross.
Pools were first on the attack, Luke James making a good run down the right channel and winning a corner off covering defender Mathias Kouo-Doumbe.
Jack Barmby’s delivery from the right side was a poor one, a real grasscutter from the on-loan player (in for Andy Monkhouse), allowing the Cobblers to clear.
Both sets of players seemed to be having trouble not only with the strong, icy wind but also keeping their footing on a bobbly pitch.
Disaster struck Duckworth inside the first 10 minutes.
He seemed to get his foot stuck in the turf down the right and hobbled away.
The right-back tried to run it off, only to collapse in agony on the edge of the away area, prompting concerned players to wave at thebench for treatment.
Physio Ian Gallagher came on and after being assisted by the St John’s Ambulance staff, Duckworth was stretchered off to warm applause.
Northampton threatened for the first time through John Marquis but Sam Collins made a good block with Ricky Ravenhill putting the rebound from outside the box high over the bar.
The Cobblers were looking to play down the right as often as possible and McSweeney swung over an excellent cross which was just too high for Bren Dickenson.
Another cross from the right, this time through Chris Hackett, created danger and loud appeals for a penalty after Richards shepherded the ball out for a corner.
Pools broke smartly through Marlon Harewood and Barmby to put Williams away who won a corner but, again, the delivery of Barmby was poor.
Conditions were not easy but Northampton were looking lively going forward.
The Cobblers had a great chance on 31 minutes when Marquis turned smartly from eight yards but his left foot shot was too high.
Pools had had a couple of swift breaks in the opening half hour but were struggling to retain possession.
Northampton did not look a side stuck at the bottom of the league and they got a save out of Flinders in the 39th minute, but the Pools keeper comfortably held Emile Sinclair’s overhead kick.
Pools were undone deep into added time.
Darren Holden conceded a free-kick near trhe corner flag after a foul on former Pools winger McSweeney.
Hacket’s delivery did not look particularly worrying but Joe Widdowson picked it up on the far side.
The left-back’s cross should have been food and drink to Pools but they failed to deal with it and KOUO-DOUMBLE forced it in from close range.
It almost got worse for Pools as Sinclair was given a free header but thankfully itb went wide of Flinders’ right-hand post.
Northampoton Town 1
Hartlepool Utd 0
Pools were the first to attack when Brad Walker hooked a harmless shot towards the Cobblers goal.
But Northampton extended the lead just 60 seconds into the half.
Hackett beat Holden near the corner flag and his cross from the right was put in by DICKENSON from inside the six-yard box.
Pools looked out of sorts and they gave Hackett too much room and the midfielder was just wide from a central position 25 yards out.
There was briefly some threat by Pools when Barmby and Williams linked up nicely but Doumbe made a good tackle on the on-loan Boro prospect.
Pools finally drew a save from Matt Duke just after the hour, Simon Walton linking nicely with Darren Holden who found Williams, but his left footer landed tamely in the hands of Duke.
Cooper made a double substitution on 67 minutes, bringing on Jon Franks and Jack Compton for Barmby and Marlon Harewood.
There seemed an immediate lift, though the corner they won was fortuitous from a shank by Doumbe.
Compton’s delivery was good but no-one was there to put it in.
It had been a poor game but it got worse, with two bookings in quick succession for Marquis and Walton.
Alan Connell should have put the Cobblers 3-0 up when he had a free header which the sub had won.
But the forward put Darren Carter’s delivery from the right wide of Flinders goal.
Pools at last started to build some pressure but centre-half Zander Diamond cleared Compton’s free-kick.
The Cobblers looked reasonably comfortable but they were grateful to their keeper on 84 minutes.
Williams cut in from the left and unleashed a rocket of a shot which Duke saved superbly to his left.
It was as good as it got for Pools who made no further impression.