Peterborough 4 Hartlepool Utd 0

HARTLEPOOL United suffered a second-half collapse as Peterborough United struck three times in seven minutes to sweep aside Mick Wadsworth's men.

Pools have now gone 381 minutes without scoring and, since the New Year's Day win over Oldham, have picked up just one point, sliding to 14th in League One in the process.

Posh top scorer Craig Mackail-Smith was in the thick of the action early on and was denied a fourth-minute opener by the legs of Jake Kean after George Boyd had found his strike partner in space 12 yards from goal.

>> Read the full match report in Monday's Mail

The blonde-haired frontman then had two clear openings inside the area but on both occasions did his touch desert him and Pools' slack marking went unpunished.

Mackail-Smith was then sprung clear by Tommy Rowe on 31 minutes but Kean was off his line in a flash and vacated his area to dive at the feet of the forward and blocked with his legs.

Pools' first attempt on goal came in the 40th minute when Leon McSweeney took aim from 25 yards. Goalkeeper Joe Lewis could only parry but Ritchie Humphreys was unable to turn the loose ball back across goal where Antony Sweeney was waiting in front of an empty target.

The visitors were beginning to enjoy some attacking possession and Andy Monkhouse, having started a move which saw the ball switched out wide to Neil Austin, arrived in the area at just the right time to connect with the full-back's cross but headed over from eight yards.

The best chance of the half, though, fell to Sweeney one minute before the break, Monkhouse picking out his unmarked brow just six yards from goal but the midfielder snatched at the effort and headed woefully wide.

McSweeney again went close not long after the restart with another effort from range, this time firing narrowly over.

But Pools had Peter Hartley to thank in the 51st minute when, with James Wesolowski bursting clear on goal, the defender managed to get on terms with the diminutive midfielder before extending a toe to nick the ball.

Hartley, though, succumbed to injury just moments later and was replaced by Armann Bjornsson.

And perhaps that reshuffle at the back unsettled the visitors for ten minutes they fell behind, a game of head tennis inside the area brought to a very definite conclusion when Mackail-Smith won his duel with Austin and nodded beyond a static Kean.

Pools were on the ropes and it came as no surprise when, just two minutes later, Posh doubled their advantage, Kean doing well to turn Boyd's deflected shot onto the crossbar only for Tommy Rowe to steam in and tuck home the rebound.

And two became three on 68 minutes when Lee Tomlin, six yards from goal, applied the simplest of headed finishes to Mackail-Smith's pinpoint centre.

Rowe should have bagged his second on 76 minutes but blazed over from 12 yards after man of the match Mackail-Smith provided another inch-perfect delivery.

There was still time for Wesolowski to add an injury-time fourth as he blasted into the bottom corner from ten yards after Pools had failed to clear Tom Kennedy's free-kick.