SIMON Walton was red carded as Hartlepool United’s survival hopes were all but extinguished following this afternoon’s 2-0 defeat at home to MK Dons.
Trailing to Patrick Bamford’s sixth-minute opener, Walton was given his marching orders early in the second half for what appeared a needless stamp on the Dons scorer.
The visitors made sure of victory soon after courtesy of Dean Bowditch to leave Pools eight points from safety with just five matches remaining.
Pools had lost Ritchie Humphreys to a calf injury during the warm-up – Jack Baldwin coming in – and that was to prove a sign of things to come for the luckless hosts who are now without a goal in ten-and-a-half hours.
The breakthrough goal was a touch of class from Bamford, the Chelsea loanee collecting possession 20 yards out before dancing between three home shirts and skipping into the area and tucking low beyond Scott Flinders.
Pools lost Tony Sweeney to injury just before the half-hour mark but the arrival of his replacement, teenage striker Luke James, drew the biggest cheer of the first half.
His energy soon helped create an opening for Jon Franks but his 20-yard drive fizzed wide.
Middlesbrough loanee Charlie Wyke tried his luck from similar range on 33 minutes but he, too, was unable to test Ian McLoughlin in the visiting goal.
It wasn’t until the 48th minute that Pools drew a save from McLoughlin, Baldwin measuring a volley from 25 yards which the netminder gathered at the second attempt.
But within three minutes the hosts were down to 10 men following Walton’s needless clash with Bamford.
The Dons youngster was then involved in a coming-together with Baldwin and, having received a yellow card for his part in that flashpoint, was immediately substituted.
Daniel Powell entered the action and he should have put the result out of sight when beating the offside trap the scamper clear but Flinders was equal to his attempted dink.
Bowditch, though, made no mistake when sizing a sumptuous 20-yard curler into the bottom corner on 62 minutes.
Powell twice came close to making it three late on but a pair of powerful strikes were repelled by Flinders.
There was still time for Peter Hartley to crack the base of the post at the other end, but the game then fizzled towards another sorry conclusion for the home side.