HARTLEPOOL United made it three league wins on the bounce after a dogged 1-0 home win over Plymouth Argyle at Victoria Park.
Pools – down to 10 men after Jack Compton’s first-half red card – secured the three points courtesy of a fine solo effort from Luke James in the 54th minute – his second goal in a week.
The 18-year-old skipped through the middle of Plymouth’s defence and cooly slotted it home past Luke McCormick in the away goal.
Scott Flinders in the Pools goal was man of the match with several fine saves to keep Colin Cooper’s noses in front at a buoyant Victoria Park.
It means Colin Cooper’s side have won four matches on the trot – including the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy win over Sheffield United – with confidence sky high.
Cooper named the same starting 11 for the League Two clash with Plymouth after last weekend’s 3-0 defeat of Exeter City.
Luke James again started up front, with support from James Poole behind him as Pools lined up in a 4-4-1-1 formation.
Sam Collins returned to the bench in place of Darren Holden who was not in the squad, while striker Steve Howard also missed out despite serving his three-match suspension.
It was a scrappy start to the match but Plymouth had the better of the opening chances with Reuben Reid going close in the 4th minute but his effort was blocked after a goalmouth scramble.
Reid was then put through in the 7th minute and he nicked the ball past the onrushing Scott Flinders but Christian Burgess was on hand to tackle the burly front man and shepherd the ball away from danger.
James Poole was booked in the 12th minute for a late challenge on Plymouth’s captain Conor Hourihane and the game burst into life moments later, with Flinders keeping Pools in it with a fine double save.
On-loan Middlesbrough defender Burgess clattered Hourihane on the egde of the 18-yeard box in the 15th minute and Luke Young stepped up to take it.
His initial shot hit the wall but the rebound fell nicely to him and he forced Flinders into a diving save to his left. Flinders then had to be quick on his toes to deny Romauld Boco who was following in.
Pools were then dealt a hammer blow when Jack Compton was given a straight red for a lunge on Jamie Reckord just in front of the home dugout in the 24th minute.
A minute later there was a poignant moment when fans from both sides took part in a minute’s applause in memory of former Pools midfielder Michael Maidens, who tragically died in a car crash six years ago today aged 20.
The popular midfielder wore the number 25 shirt at Pools.
Paul Hayes and Hourihane both had good efforts saved by Flinders as Pools, in a 4-4-1 formation after Compton’s sending off, struggled to stay in the game.
Matty Dolan was then booked for a over zealous challenge in the 33rd minute and Luke Young also entered the referee’s book for wiping out Michael Duckworth in the 37th minute as the right back bombed forward.
Pools hung on to go into the break level.
It didn’t take long for Plymouth to create their first chance of the second half, Reid firing a right-footed effort just wide of Flinders’ post two minutes in.
And it was Flinders to the rescue again moments later when he was at full stretch to tip Hourihane’s effort onto the right hand post.
Dangerman Reid was then subbed for Lewis Alessandra and Cooper’s side took full advantage.
Pools took the lead courtesy of a fine solo effort from Luke James, who calmy slotted the ball past McCormick in the 54th minute after a storming run past Neal Trotman in the Plymouth defence.
Pools then showed great discipline and determination to keep hold of their lead and Cooper brought on Jordan Richards for James Poole in the 70th minute in a bid to shore up the right handside.
With 15 minutes to go Pools became camped in their own half and Young tested Flinders from distance but the Pools stopper was in the right position to hold the ball comfortably.
The game became scrappy as the clock ticked down with Plymouth pushing for an equaliser.
It almost came in the 85th minute when Curtis Nelson had a free header in the box from a quick free-kick but his effort was straight into the grateful hands of man of the match Flinders.
Luke James – to another standing ovation – and Michael Duckworth were subbed late on for Sam Collins and Jonathan Franks as Cooper looked to secure the win.
A 25-yard free-kick from Dolan in the 90th minute almost doubled the lead but McCormick held on, as did Pools for all three points.
Pools: Scott Flinders, Michael Duckworth (Collins, 90), Jack Baldwin, Christian Burgess, Neil Austin (C), Jack Compton, Simon Walton, Matty Dolan, Andy Monkhouse, James Poole (Richards, 70), Luke James (Franks, 90).
Subs: Andy Rafferty, Sam Collins, Jonathan Franks, Antony Sweeney, Jordan Richards, Nialle Rodney, Bradley Walker.
Booked: Poole, Dolan.
Sent off: Compton.
Plymouth Argyle: Luke McCormick, Durrell Berry (Gurrieri, 67), Maxime Blanchard, Conor Hourihane (C), Romauld Boco, Reuben Reid (Alessandra, 50), Luke Young, Neal Trotman, Curtis Nelson, Paul Hayes, Jamie Reckord (Blackman).
Subs: Jake Cole, Andre Blackman, Lewis Alessandra, Paul Wotton, Tyle Harvey, Hamza Bencherif, Andewa Gurrieri.
Referee: Scott Mathieson. Assistant Referees: P. Curry. T. Nield.
Attendance: 3,929 (273 Plymouth)