Tranmere Rovers 1 Hartlepool United 2: Pools end forgettable season with unexpected away day win
Hartlepool United signed off an utterly forgettable season with an unexpected win at promotion-chasing Tranmere Rovers.
While Pools were safe and Rovers already with eyes on the play-off battles that lie in wait, this was a significant victory for Pools and for caretaker Matthew Bates, who is likely to find out this weekend whether, after guiding the team away from the relegation zone, he will be given the reins on a permanent basis.
Liam Donnelly opened the scoring on the stroke of half-time with a penalty before Rhys Oates doubled the lead with a deft flick. Jeff Hughes then halved the deficit but Pools hung on for the three points in front of their clown-clad followers on the terracrs.
On the selection front Pools' caretaker Bates made three changes from the side who laboured to a home draw against relegated Torquay United last time out.
In came Devante Rodney, as well as Carl Magnay and Liam Donnelly returning from injury in the back four.
Jake Cassidy was presented with the first opportunity of the game and he was unlucky not to open the scoring after some remarkable skill and reflexes. A corner from the right was won by Louis Laing and Cassidy, back to goal, had to twist to acrobatically divert towards goal, only to see it rise over the Tranmere bar.
At the other end the prolific James Norwoodwas a fingertip away from an equaliser. Having rounded Scott Loach he looked all set to make it 1-1, but the former Watford man, probably Pools' player of the season, got back to deny the striker another to add to his fifth tier collection.
Just as the game looked set to tick over to half-time - the first flash point of the game.
Donnelly went down in the area. Referee Sam Purkiss adjudged he was tripped. much to the anger of the home faithful, and Donnelly picked himself up to slot in the opener.
After the break Pools dominated possession and they were rewarded with just a quarter hour to go when sub Oates produced a bit of improvised magic to flick, with his back to goal, into an empty net after a goalmouth scramble.
Almost immediately the hosts were back in it, though.
A needless foul by Blair Adams presented Hughes with the chance to deliver into a crowded area. But calling everyone's bluff he went for goal and it was the right call as he guided in on 77.
A nervous close of play ensued but Pools hung on for yet another victory on the road to sign off in style... of sorts.