Hartlepool United 2 Sutton United 3: Pools let yet more home points slip as Eastmond strikes late to seal win
Hartlepool United again let points slip from a winning position at home to Sutton United.
Aswad Thomas put the visitors in front early on as Sutton dominated the opening 45. Refreshed and rejuvenated Pools came out and grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck as first Niko Muir and then Liam Noble put them in front in the space of two minutes.
As has so often been the case, though, the hosts let their hopes of three home points slip as Tom Bolarinwa popped up with a second-half equaliser.
And then with time ticking away Craig Eastmond cracked home from the edge of the area to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
On the selection front Pools' boss Bates made just the one change from the FA Cup win over Kidsgrove Athletic - with Michael Woods dropping out and Paddy McLaughlin coming in.
And while the midfielder did not have the best of opening 45s, the player was a catalyst for Pools' improvement in the second period.
While Bates' men saw plenty of the ball early on they struggled to unpick the Sutton lock. The visitors did not have the same problems as Thomas turned home from close range in the 22nd minute. From a Pools perspective it was a disappointing one, having failed to deal with the corner and then lose a battle on the deck in the area. It was a messy one, but that mattered little - 1-0 to the visitors.
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It took Pools until two minutes into the second half to get on terms.
A corner from the right was recycled by Carl Magnay and Muir managed to poke home from inside the six-yard box to make it 1-1.
Not wanting to rest on their laurels, two minutes later Noble turned the game on its head. A free kick from wide was fired in on goal and deflected home via Eastmond for 2-1.
In front and in control this game, and the points looked headed in one direction but having been in front for all of 14 minutes, Pools again let their guard slip. On the break. Bolarinwa tucked in at the back post to level things up.
Ryan Donaldson, on a rare foray forward, missed a fantastic opportunity to put Pools in front again, failing to control a back-post volley before the late sucker punch as Eastmond stroked in from 18 yards to ensure the points went south.