Pools fell to a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Luton Town at Victoria Park this afternoon, with a goal in each half sealing victory for the visitors.
Neil Austin hit home from the penalty spot on 90 minutes but it came too late to prove anything other than a consolation for Pools this afternoon.
Charlie Wyke had the first chance of the afternoon as he broke through to fire a real thunder-strike on goal but visiting keeper Mark Tyler pulled off a decent save to deny Pools the early opener.
Pools set a high tempo to the early part of this game and looked bright going forward, with Ryan Brobbel causing problems down the left and Wyke looking strong up front.
Brobbel tried his luck with a great effort from distance but he saw it dip just over the bar though the early signs were positive for Sam Collins’ team.
While Pools dominated the early possession, Luton Town looked a real threat on the break with Pelly Mpanzu lively and Mark Cullen finding space inside the box.
There were two touching tributes during the game; the first on 14 minutes in memory of Pools fan Rhys Hewitt and another on 25 minutes in memory of former player Michael Maidens.
After a dip in tempo, Pools picked it up again going into the break and on 30 minutes there was a big call for a penalty after Wyke was tripped when running into the area. Despite strong appeals for Pools, neither the referee nor his assistant acknowledged them and the game continued.
Matthew Bates went closest for Pools in this first half after he got on the end of an inch-perfect Brobbel cross into the box to head on goal but his effort was collected by Tyler as it looped under the bar.
But with 40 minutes on the clock, Luton made the most of a break forward as they pushed through to take the lead. Mpanzu threaded a ball through into the box for Cullen who found himself with just Flinders to beat and the visiting striker pushed the ball through the legs of the Pools keeper and into the back of the net.
Ryan Brobbel hit a lovely freekick in added time in the first half which crept just wide of the near post and Pools went into the second half with a goal to overturn.
Collins sent his side out full of enthusiasm again in the second half and it was Pools who made all of the early running.
Again Brobbel, who formed a decent partnership down the left with the impressive Dan Jones, caused a problem down the wing, while Lewis Hawkins added a threat from the opposite side.
But while Pools were bright early on, it was the visitors who controlled much of the second period as it progressed and Mark Tyler was relatively quiet in the Luton goal.
The visitors remained a danger going forward, working Pools hard at the back and there were a couple of nervy moments, none more so than when a freekick was floated in from the right. Steve McNulty picked up the freekick unmarked inside the box and headed at goal only to be denied by Scott Harrison who put in a great block to clear and then recovered quickly to assist Flinders with the rebound.
Pools remained enthusiastic in their approach and this was only helped by the introduction of young striker Connor Smith who was full of running and spurred both the team and crowd on.
But for all of the positivity and enthusiasm, the breakthrough was missing and it was Luton Town who fired home next.
A freekick from a dangerous position on the edge of the area was well-saved by Flinders but the loose ball was parried straight into the feet of sub Jim Stevenson and he made no mistake as he fired home the rebound to make it 2-0.
Sub Brad Walker was tripped inside the box on 90 minutes and the referee, who was close by, pointed straight to the spot. Neil Austin stepped up to take the penalty and made no mistake as he smashed home into the roof of the net.
Pools continued to push to the final of the 94 minutes but could not find that goal from open play to get anything back from this game and the afternoon finished in defeat.
Full Time: Pools 1 Luton Town 2
Booked: Jones, Hawkins (86)
Attendance: 4225 (525 Luton Town)
Pools: Flinders, Duckworth, Austin, Harrison, Jones, Miller, Brobbel, Bates (Walker 78), Woods (Smith), Hawkins (Franks 88), Wyke.
Subs Not Used: Woodman, Richards, Nearney, Green.
Luton Town: Tyler, Smith, McNulty, Drury, Griffiths, Cullen (Benson 71), Ruddock Mpanzu (Stevenson 79), Miller (Guttridge 89), Harriman, Doyle, Wilkinson.
Subs Not Used: Lacey, Wall, Justham, Walker.