Pools were made to pay for not making their first-half dominance count as Oxford United grabbed a second-half winner to take all three points this afternoon.
Ronnie Moore’s men put in an impressive first forty-five minutes but failed to turn their possession into goals and when Danny Hylton scored with just over 20 minutes remaining, Pools could find no response.
Moore switched thing around this afternoon, opting for a 4-3-3 formation which seemed to catch Oxford United on the hop early on.
Pools spent the first ten minutes feeling their way around the opposition penalty area, with the midfield trio of Featherstone, Magnay and Gray all enjoying plenty of possession.
Oxford had their first foray forward on 13 minutes when Kemar Roofe whipped a lovely cross in from the right which was intercepted by Matthew Bates who threw himself into a brave header to deny Pat Hoban.
Pools were soon back on the attack with Michael Duckworth crossing in from the right for Carl Magnay who met it with a powerful header back at goal. His effort came from the edge of the box but went just wide of the post.
Trevor Carson made his first real save on 21 minutes after a neat turn and shot from Chris Maguire inside the box. The Pools keeper was fully alert though as he got down to save at the near post.
Pools were playing the better football throughout the first half though, with Jake Gray becoming an increasing threat to the visitors.
He went desperately close to scoring just before the half-hour mark when a Kal Naismith freekick was punched into his path by the Oxford keeper. Gray took control with his first touch before sending his second looping through the box and towards goal where it bounced off the crossbar and back into play.
There were a few chances for the visitors, with Adam Jackson dominating in the air and Matthew Bates putting in some strong challenges – one in particular to deny Hoban a shot.
Jackson was involved in the opposition penalty area after he met a corner clearance to turn and shoot from the edge of the box but his shot went just wide.
Moore’s side played some really good football in this first half, passing it about well and making the most of their new formation.
And after one particularly good passage of play involved Duckworth, Naismith, Gray and Duckworth, Pools poured forward into the box and with Gray looking set to finish at the far post, he was pushed clearly to the floor. No penalty was awarded though.
The teams went in at 0-0 at half time but there was plenty of encouragement for Pools for the second half after an extremely entertaining first forty-five.
Mikael Mandron had the first decent chance of the second half after being fed through with a great ball from Naismith; with only the keeper between him and goal, the on-loan striker ran on into the box but Buchel had come out to close him down and Mandron’s final shot was block by the stopper.
Carl Magnay, who had dominated for Pools this afternoon, went off with a facial injury on the hour mark and was replaced by Brad Walker. And the young midfielder looked to mark his introduction with an ambitious freekick from 30 yards but his strike went just high of target.
With 25 minutes remaining, Oxford United enjoyed their best spell of the game, keeping Pools pinned back.
Trevor Carson pulled off a great save, first to deny a thunderous freekick from distance and then to nick the ball out of the path of Hoban as he arrived to poke him the rebound.
The visitors took the lead with their next counter attack, breaking through the middle through the determined Alex MacDonald who played it on for Danny Hylton and he fired a powerful strike past Carson to give Oxford the lead on 70 minutes.
Pools had lacked the real spark they had in the first half following the break but there were still enough glimpses of possibility for Moore’s side going forward.
Oyenuga sent the ball forward for Mandron who held it up, took a touch on his chest and then fed it on for the in-running Walker; he placed a lovely shot at goal but it just failed to find target.
At the other end, Trevor Carson pulled off another top save, getting down so quickly to deny Liam Sercombe who must have thought he’d doubled his side’s lead.
In the end it was disappointment for Pools from a game that had promised so much more in the first half. With plenty of possession and lots of positivity from Ronnie Moore's side, all that was missing was the final touch to make it count.
Full Time: Pools 0 Oxford United 1
Booked: Oates (32), Walker (67)
Attendance: 3622 (354 Oxford United)
Pools: Carson, Duckworth, Jackson, Bates, Carroll, Featherstone, Magnay (Walker 60), Gray (Oyenuga 74), Naismith, Oates (Bingham 74), Mandron.
Subs Not Used: Bartlett, Harrison, Jones, Fenwick.
Oxford United: Buchel, Baldock, Skarz, Roofe, Mullins, Sercombe, MacDonald, Hoban (O’Dowda 82), Lundstram, Maguire (Hylton 62), Dunkley.
Subs Not Used: Slocombe, Rose, Ruffles, Long, Evan