Pools produced a gritty and determined away performance to come from a goal down to secure their first win of the new season at AFC Wimbledon.
Colin Cooper had made four changes to his starting eleven for the trip, drafting in Charlie Wyke for his debut alongside Marlon Harewood in attack, while Tommy Miller and Sam Collins both returned t to the line-up.
170 Pools fans had made the journey more in hope than expectation given a slow start to the season and coupled with the fact that Neal Ardley’s in-form Dons were yet to taste defeat since the big kick-off.
Pools began in positive fashion, with debutant Charlie Wyke keen get off to a good start in his second loan move to the Club and proving a handful in attack.
It was his that was the first effort on goal as he turned well just inside the area and sent a shot towards the top corner which was well held by home keeper James Shea.
The Dons grew in to it more as the minutes ticked on and Adebayo Akinfenwa manoeuvred in to space on the edge of the area but saw his shot deflected away from goal.
Pools’ defensive woes returned to haunt them on ten minutes though as an encouraging start to the game was undone when Callum Kennedy’s cross from the left was allowed to land on Matt Tubbs’ chest twelve yards out before he was then given the freedom to drill a low shot in to the bottom corner of the net. Scott Flinders had no chance.
There was almost a quick response though; Ryan Brobbel earned a free-kick on the left and delivered a tantalising ball across the penalty area which couldn’t earn a touch despite the despairing efforts of Matthew Bates, Marlon Harewood and Wyke.
Sean Rigg sent a volley dipping just over Flinders’ box as the hosts continued to do more of the pressing; Barry Fuller came even closer when he robbed Brobbel on the right of the penalty area and his looping volley beat Flinders but came back off the bar.
Wyke got on the end of another pinpoint Brobbel cross but headed at the keeper, while Akinfenwa’s scuffed effort needed a smart save from Flinders to stop it sneaking in to the bottom corner on the stroke of half time.
Within seconds of the restart Pools were back level. BRobbel produced another delivery of quality towards Sam Collins and his header spiralled dangerously towards goal where the hosts failed to deal with it and Wyke nodded in the equaliser from point-blank range.
It gave Cooper’s men extra impetus and they could have gone in front when Harewood charged down Barry Fuller’s short back-pass but Wyke couldn’t convert the rebound and The Dons escaped.
The hosts reacted by launching a series of attacks themselves, but Alan Bennett glanced a header wide from a corner and then Tubbs spurned a good chance when in space on the left of the area.
Pools continued to carry threat too though and they stole in front midway through the second half when Harewood flicked on to Wyke who helped it on to Brobbel. The winger tore away down the left and drilled a low ball in to Harewood who controlled and spun to score and make it 2-1.
The fans were in raptures but their joy was almost cut short when Miller caught Tubbs in the box and the referee awarded a penalty – but Flinders flew to his right to palm away Tubbs’ spot-kick and produced an even more incredible save to block the rebound and preserve the lead.
Pools then showed guts in defending the advantage in the closing stages but, in truth, the hosts offered only a wild effort over the bar from Rigg and a hook wide from Akinfenwa as five minutes of stoppage time passed without incident.
It was a victory covered in character and desire – now it needs to offer the platform for a consistent improvement in results moving forward.
Cheltenham Town are up next - and Pools need to be at the races again.
AFC Wimbledon 1 Pools 2
Att: 3576 (170 Pools)
Pools: Flinders, Duckworth, Collins, Bates, Austin, Franks, Miller, Walker, Brobbel, Harewood, Wyke (Richards 82).
Subs Not Used: Barber, Holden, Harrison, Smith, Compton, Woods.
AFC Wimbledon: Shea, Fuller, Kennedy (Azeez 73), Moore (Pell 64), Barrett, Bennett, Rigg, Bulman, Akinfenwa, Tubbs, Francomb (Sainte-Luce 64).
Subs Not Used: Worner, Phillips, Nicholson, Harrison.