Harrogate Town 3-1 Hartlepool United: Nicke Kabamba's debut goal in vain as Pools hit with a third successive defeat
Hartlepool United suffered their third successive defeat as they put in a disappointing display in front of the television cameras at Harrogate Town.
Lloyd Kerry's early strike handed the promotion-chasing hosts the initiative, before Harrogate were denied a second from the penalty spot.
Jack Muldoon doubled the lead with a fine strike after the break, with Nicke Kabamba's debut goal merely a consolation as Mark Beck's header secured victory for Town.
Pools were always going to face a tough test in North Yorkshire, with Harrogate keen to keep their play-off ambitions alive with the BT Sport cameras watching on.
And Richard Money’s men barely had time to settle into their surroundings before they fell behind.
There was more than a touch of fortune on Harrogate’s side, however, as the ball fell fortuitously for Kerry after a scramble in the box - the winger needing no second invitation and drilling home at the near post.
Things could have gone from bad to worse seconds after the restart as Josh Falkingham drilled narrowly wide from range.
Pools continued to be on the back foot and were arguably lucky not to be further behind before half-time.
Hesitation from Beck saw him squander an opportunity to surge through on goal after picking the pocket of Carl Magnay, while debutant Michael Raynes had to heroically deny George Thomson with a sliding block minutes later.
With the pressure mounting, it looked inevitable that Simon Weaver’s side would double their advantage - and they were soon presented with a golden opportunity to do so.
After a corner wasn’t fully cleared, Magnay was adjudged to have pulled Beck’s shirt in the area. Referee Marc Edwards pointing to the spot, much to the bewilderment of all four ends at the CNG Stadium.
Thomson’s penalty was well-struck, but a strong hand from Loach down to his right keep the deficit at one.
That let-off buoyed Pools, who began to assert their authority on the clash thanks in part to a lively performance from debutant Luke Molyneux - who was at the heart of everything positive about the visitors’ first-half display.
His dinked cross saw Kabamba force a stunning save out of James Belshaw, with the Harrogate stopper doing well to parry the loanee’s header.
Then the Sunderland youngster’s free-kick was nodded just over by Michael Raynes at the far post as Money’s side finished the opening period strongly.
But all that good work before the interval was undone within five minutes of the restart as the hosts doubled their lead.
The finish was an unstoppable one from Muldoon, but it owed a lot to sloppy play from Nicky Featherstone in the build-up.
His poor pass was picked up by Kerry who drove forward before being denied by Loach - the rebound not fully cleared before it was worked back to Muldoon who converted emphatically, firing into the top corner from 20 yards.
Pools were offered a glimmer of hope seven minutes later though, as Kamamba halved the deficit - rifling home from close range after his initial header from Mark Kitching’s teasing cross was blocked.
Loach had to then deny Muldoon at the near post before substitute manage to get his body in the way of a goal-bound Beck header.
Beck wouldn’t be denied again, however, restoring the two-goal cushion with a towering header from Muldoon’s floated delivery.
Jake Cassidy could have handed Hartlepool a glimmer of hope but curled over from a tight angle after being played in by Molyneux.
But there were to be no late heroics for Pools, whose winless run now stretches to four games.
Pools XI: Loach; Richardson, Magnay (Anderson 45), Raynes, Amos; Featherstone (Kioso 59), Molyneux, Donaldson, James (Hawkes 62); Kabamna, Cassidy
Pools subs: Amos, Muir
Goal(s): Kabamba 57
Harrogate Town XI: Belshaw, Fallowfield, Falkingham, Howe, Burrell, Thomson, Emmett (Knowles 82), Beck (Williams 90), Kerry, Muldoon (Woods 79), Kitching
Harrogate Town subs: Cracknell, Leesley
Goal(s): Kerry 4, Muldoon 51, Beck 68
Yellow: Beck 85