MATCH REPORT Hartlepool United 0 MK Dons 1

HARTLEPOOL United suffered just their second home defeat since September as MK Dons left Victoria Park with a 1-0 victory.

In truth it was a drab affair which neither side deserved to win but Pools will feel hard done to after what appeared a perfectly-legitimate second-half equaliser was disallowed.

A turgid opening half hour was almost brought to life when Antony Sweeney went airborne to connect with Gary Liddle’s cross and sent an ambitious scissor-kick wide of David Martin’s goal from 12 yards.

There was nothing more by way of penalty-box action as the first half drifted towards a goalless conclusion - that was until Evan Horwood gifted the visitors the opener in the 45th minute.

Attempting to chest a hopeful crossfield ball back to Scott Flinders, the full-back undercooked his cushion allowing former Darlington loanee Daniel Powel to nick in and round the exposed keeper to score.

Ryan Donaldson came close to leveling terms five minutes into the second period, his 20-yard volley clipping the top of the crossbar after striker partner Ritchie Humphreys had supplied a delicately chested tee.

Dons stopper Martin was forced into his first save of the afternoon on 63 minutes when Peter Hartley, reacting to the loose ball from a Horwood free-kick, turned a shot on target from a narrow angle but it was comfortably held by the netminder.

Pools did have the ball in the net on 66 minutes when Ryan Donaldson stabbed home from close range after a goalmouth melee, but man in black Gary Sutton spotted an infringement and blew for a free-kick, much to the amazement and annoyance of the scorer.

Colin Larkin turned the game in Pools’ favour when emerging from the substitutes bench against Colchester two weeks ago and he was again introduced with 20 minutes remaining.

Immediately the Irish forward sought to address the deficit and burst by Dean Lewington on the right channel before cutting infield and firing narrowly wide.

Fellow sub James Brown then drilled inches wide of the same upright on 77 minutes having stolen a yard on minder Sean O’Hanlon 20 yards from goal.

But no Pools man came closer to snatching a point than Sam Collins on 83 minutes, the skipper smashing a volley against the crossbar from just inside the area only for Sweeney, stretching to connect, to head wide from the rebound.

There was still time for Leon McSweeney to see an injury-time effort dribble wide with Martin beaten, but The Dons held on to claim maximum points.

Pools: Flinders, Haslam, Collins, Hartley, Horwood, Sweeney, Liddle, Murray (Larkin 70), Monkhouse, Humphreys (Brown 70), Donaldson (McSweeney 84)

Subs: Rafferty, Gamble, Yantorno, Boyd

MK Dons: Martin, Doumbe, Lewington, Mackenzie, O’Hanlon, Marsh-Brown (Guy 77), Powell (Stirling 83), Chadwick, Leven, Gleeson, Vine (Hughes 67)

Subs: Searle, Stirling, Chicksen, Amoo, Woodards