Pools suffered a late blow at The Vic again this evening to lose out 2-1 to Oldham Athletic.
John Hughes’ side fought back from going a goal down early in the first half and looked set to take a point from the game – despite being down to ten men.
But a late penalty kick - scored on the rebound after a Scott Flinders save - saw Jose Baxter convert his second of the game to take all three points away from Pools and back to the North West.
It was a scrappy opening to a game between two sides clearly lacking in confidence and it looked set to be a tight affair from the off.
Pools had the first chance of the game, and it was a close one as a Ritchie Humphreys’ cross from the right picked out Steve Howard and his header went goalwards only to hit against the post and bounce back into play.
With Pools looking on top of things in terms of possession, the visitors were gifted a goal on 17 minutes.
Scott Flinders played a ball out straight to Matt Derbyshire, allowing Oldham to capitalise. Derbyshire immediately played the ball neatly in for Jose Baxter and he made no mistake with a composed finish into an empty net.
Hughes’ side again took time to settle down after the goal, allowing for some panicky spells of play – with Oldham being given a few unnecessary chances on goal.
But, unlike on Saturday, Pools managed to stop the visitors from adding to their tally and they were able to gradually find their feet.
Ritchie Humphreys was lively for Pools in the opening period, forcing the issue in the final third and showing a real desire in the attack.
For all Pools enjoyed the greater share of possession in the remainder of the first half, Dean Bouzanis in the visiting goal remained untested as Hughes’ men failed to create anything to really test Oldham.
Steve Howard looked to be held back as he pushed on to meet a decent cross from Neil Austin but the referee showed no interest in appeals and the first half finished with the visitors ahead.
Pools came out brightly after the break and went close shortly after the restart; a pacy corner in from Franks on the left found Peter Hartley at the far post but the skipper’s powerful header went just wide of the far post.
A neat touch from Steve Howard saw the ball played in for Sweeney inside the area as Pools next pushed forward and the midfielder turned to play in Franks only for the winger to be denied a goal by a good Bouzanis save – the first real save of the match just after the hour mark.
On 64 minutes though, and with Pools next effort on goal, the keeper had no chance; a corner into the area was played out as far as Jonathan Franks. Once again the former Middlesbrough man showed good vision to fire a real thunderstrike through the area. His effort was blocked by the keeper but Sweeney was on hand to hit home from close range to draw Pools level.
With Pools looking to be on top, things were made harder once again as Neil Austin received a straight red for a high challenge moments later and Hughes’ side had to continue with a man down.
Hughes had to sacrifice the attacking option of Jonathan Franks to bring on Jack Baldwin in place of Austin at right back as Pools looked to keep things tight at the back.
Despite being a man down, Pools were far from forced back to defend for the remainder of the game and continued to search for a late winner.
However, there was also relief at the other end as a late snapshot for Oldham hit the woodwork to deny them a a winning goal.
And then, with the clock on 90 minutes – it happened again; a ball into the box was handled by sub Baldwin and the referee was quick to award another penalty kick at The Vic.
Scott Flinders blocked the initial shot from Jose Baxter but the Oldham striker reacted quickest and poked home the rebound to make it heartbreak for Pools once again.
Full Time: Pools 1 Oldham Athletic 2
Att: 3078 (96 Oldham Athletic)
Booked: Humphreys (20), Horwood (90)
Sent Off: Austin (76)
Pools: Flinders, Austin, Collins, Hartley, Horwood, Murray (Noble 85), Sweeney, Walton (Monkhouse 37), Franks (Baldwin 77), Humphreys, Howard
Subs Not Used: Foden, Poole, Wyke, Luscombe
Oldham Athletic: Bouzanis, Brown, Wesolowski (Sutherland 84), M’Voto, Croft (Smith 69), Furman, Derbyshire, Montano (M’Changama 58), Byrne, Baxter, Wabara
Subs Not Used: Cisak, Tarkowski, Winchester, Mellor