Hartlepool United signed off their 2015-16 home campaign with a 2-0 defeat to Portsmouth, their third successive loss against promotion-chasing teams.
Billy Paynter returned for Pools after a five-game absence due to a hamstring injury, while Dan Jones replaced Jake Carroll (calf) at left-back. Ex-Pools players Christian Burgess and Kal Naismith both started for promotion-chasing Portsmouth.
In an uneventful first half, the visitors went the closest to scoring in just the third minute. Gary Roberts cut inside from the right and curled a shot towards goal but Naismith accidentally got in the way to deflect his team-mate’s shot wide.
A lively Nathan Thomas had a free-kick turned away for a corner for Pools on 22 minutes and Michael Smith saw a looping header land on top of Trevor Carson’s net on 40 minutes.
The cusp of half time saw a succession of chances: Gareth Evans found space between Matthew Bates and Adam Jackson to force Carson into a smart save, but from the rebound Evans’ shot lacked the conviction to test the goalkeeper again.
Thomas then muscled his way into the Pompey box to win a corner and then had a side-footed effort turned diverted for a corner.
Half time: Hartlepool 0-0 Portsmouth.
On 56 minutes, just after Billy Paynter had volleyed a bouncing ball high and wide for Pools, the deadlock was broken.
Michael Smith marched into the Pools box from the right and squared it across goal where NAISMITH was waiting to cleverly back-heel the ball beyond Carson to give Pompey the lead.
Almost straight after the opener, Michael Woods intersected the visitors defence to feed Paynter but his placed shot was well saved by Murphy.
Carson denied Roberts at the near-post on the hour mark, before advancing from his goal-line to stop Smith from doubling Paul Cook’s side’s lead.
Within seconds of Rhys Oates’ arrival in place of Billy Paynter, he was played in on goal but took the ball wide and shot straight at Murphy. Soon after Luke James was unable to get a shot away in a goalmouth melee.
In the 74th minutes it was Oates again who squandered a great chance, his header from a Thomas centre not directed goalwards.
And five minutes from full-time, substitute CONOR CHAPLIN made it two for Portsmouth when he gently rolled in Enda Stevens cut back from the goal-line.
Full time: Hartlepool 0-2 Portsmouth
Pools: Carson, Magnay, Bates ( R. Jones, 50), Jackson, D. Jones; Featherstone, Woods (Gray, 75), Hawkins; James, Paynter (Oates, 67), Thomas
Subs not used: Bartlett, Walker, Bingham, Richards
Portsmouth: Murphy, Stevens, Burgess (Tollitt, 89), Barton, Freeman; Doyle, Hollands, Naismith (McGurk, 64), Roberts; Evans, Smith (Chaplin, 70)
Subs not used: Davies, Whatmough, Close, Haunstrup
Attendance: 5046 (933 Portsmouth)
Referee: E. Ilderton