Hartlepool United put an end to their pre-season blues with a 3-0 win over Northern League Division One side Dunston UTS.
Goals from Rakish Bingham, Nicky Featherstone and Jake Carroll gave Ronnie Moore’s men a confidence boost after heavy defeats in their last two outings.
Moore originally planned to play fringe players against Dunston, but after a 4-0 loss to Scunthorpe and then a 5-3 defeat to Gateshead, decided his first team players needed all the playing time they could get before the start of the season.
Hartlepool conceded nine goals in two games in their friendlies against Scunthorpe and Gateshead, but their superior class shone through against Northern League division one opposition.
In their penultimate pre-season friendly, Moore stuck to the 3-5-2 formation he has used since his appointment in December, with a back three of Stuart Parnaby, Scott Harrison and Harry Worley.
Michael Duckworth came in to the starting lineup at right wing-back, while Carl Magnay was placed in a holding midfield role.
A friendly between Hartlepool and Dunston was part of the agreement that saw Scott Fenwick move to Victoria Park, but the striker was left on the bench on his return.
Alex Whittle and Zac Thompson have been on trial at Hartlepool during pre-season, but played no part against Dunston.
Michael Woods continued his return to first team football after a lengthy lay-off, while Billy Paynter and Rakish Bingham were paired in attack for the third successive game.
Despite the visitors initially holding the majority of possession, Dunston had the first sight on goal.
Matthew Briggs teed up Andrew Bulford for a shot, but Adam Bartlett – who was deputising for the injured Trevor Carson – made a comfortable save.
Magnay came close in the 13th minute, with his 20-yard effort going narrowly over the bar.
Dunston’s Andrew Clark was forced into action for the first time in the 25th minute. A defensive misunderstanding caused Bingham to intercept the ball and he forced a finger-tip save from the home goalkeeper.
After a number of close efforts, Bingham finally broke the deadlock in the 30th minute.
Following an attacking move, Jake Carroll headed the ball across the face of the goal and Bingham was left with the simplest of tap-ins from the six-yard box.
Only minutes later, Dunston almost found a quick-fire reply.
An upfield clearance caused Bartlett to rush from his line, and the shot-stopper narrowly prevented Dunston’s Bulford getting an effort on goal.
But then a neat attacking move in the 38th minute doubled Pools’ lead.
Magnay’s pass put Nicky Featherstone clean through on goal and the wing-back slotted calmly under the goalkeeper.
Shortly after the break, Carroll extended Hartlepool’s lead.
The Irishman found space on the left-hand flank and arrowed a crisp shot into the bottom corner.
Moments later Carroll played the role of playmaker, as he crossed to Magnay who volleyed a shot over the bar.
Dunston’s Adam Wilkinson came close to pegging one back for the hosts, but Bartlett stood strong at the near post.
Carroll, who caused havoc throughout, was left limping in the 63rd minute, and the Pools boss took the precautionary measure by substituting him for Kudis Oyengua.
Upon being brought on in the 65th minute, Fenwick was greeted with a welcoming reception.
He nearly had an instant impact as Reece Oates hit the crossbar with a thunderous volley from the edge of the box, but Fenwick failed to convert the rebound.
In the closing stages of the game, Oates and Oyenuga linked up with a fine one-two, before Oates unleashed a curling shot that was pushed out wide by Clark.
With a convincing victory against Dunston and a much-needed clean sheet, the Poolies will take confidence going into their final pre-season friendly on Saturday against Chesterfield.
Pools (3-5-2): Bartlett, Duckworth, Parnaby, Worley, Harrison, Magnay (Smith, 84) , Featherstone (Walker), Woods (Bates, 73), Bingham (Fenwick), Paynter (Oates 65), Carroll (Oyenuga, 62). Subs not used: Denton,