Pools were knocked out of the Capital One Cup in convincing style as Port Vale ran out comfortable 6-2 winners at Vale Park this evening.
Colin Cooper’s side twice hit back to give themselves a route back into the game but allowed the hosts in too easily at the other end, sealing a First Round exit from the competition.
Pools actually started the game brightly and looked to offer a threat going forward, with Jonathan Franks looking liveliest.
However, a break forward by the hosts on eight minutes lead to the opening goal as a Ryan McGivern strike from distance was parried by Scott Flinders and it was Ben Williamson who reacted quickest to poke home from close range.
Pools reacted positively to going behind and were back on level terms within two minutes through Franks who unleashed a low strike from distance past Sam Johnson and into the back of the net.
Just four minutes later though and the hosts had restored their lead with Mark Marshall the instigator; the winger jinked his way neatly past a number of Pools shirts and into space to play in Williamson who squeezed the ball past Flinders at the near post to make it 2-1.
And by the 18th minute of the game, Williamson had his hat-trick and Pools were 3-1 down. This time the Vale striker met a cross in from the right to head past Flinders to complete his trio.
Pools, who were shaky at the back in this first half, struggled to get forward for a good spell as the hosts continued to press and looked a threat with each attack
As the half neared its end though Pools were allowed to show their own threat on the attack as Brad Walker sent a powerful strike at goal from the edge of the box which screamed wide of the far post.
Marshall tried his luck after finding himself in space at the other end but his strike too went wide of target.
Michael Woods, making his Pools debut, lifted a lovely ball forward for Luke James to run onto but after showing an impressive first touch, the young striker sent his shot high over the bar.
A Ryan Brobbel cross picked out Franks in the box but his glancing header went wide as Pools looked for a goal to get them back into the game.
But it was Vale who had the last chance of the half as Michael O’Connor curled a lovely freekick at goal only to be denied by Flinders with a great save.
Pools had a couple of efforts early on in the second half as Franks first tested Johnson with a strike from out wide which was cleared at the far post, while Neil Austin pulled a save out of the Vale keeper with a decent strike from distance.
Michael Woods went on a surging run after being played in by Neil Austin but after pushing his way into the box his shot was blocked out for a corner.
The resulting corner was aimed to the far post where Sam Collins was waiting to collect but as the ball arrived at the big defender, he was bundled to the ground and the referee reacted by instantly pointing to the spot.
Neil Austin stepped up to take the penalty kick and calmly slotted past Johnson to make it 3-2 and give Pools something to build on.
But, as with the first half, Vale reacted quickly and within three minutes they restore the two-goal lead; it was slack defending by Pools again as the hosts were allowed a simple cross into the box and Michael Brown was in the right place to head powerfully past Flinders to make it 4-2.
Brobbel saw a good strike on goal saved by Johnson before the busy Franks had a teasing cross into the box cleared at the far post as Pools continued to plug away.
But it was Port Vale who remained the most potent on the attack and after forcing his way in to shoot on goal, sub Louis Dodds saw his effort blocked by Flinders but the loose ball was tapped back past him by Tom Pope who hit the net to make it 5-2.
With five minutes of the game left, Pools allowed another cross into the box and made it all too easy for Tom Pope to head home and make it 6-2 to Port Vale.
By now, Port Vale were throwing everything at Scott Flinders' goal with relentless waves of attack and, were it not for some fine saves from the Pools' keeper, the scoreline could have been even worse.
And so Pools' participation in the Capital One Cup is again over at the First Round stage and Cooper's side going into Saturday's home game with Bury looking for a positive reaction.
Full Time: Port Vale 6 Pools 2
Att: 2824 (79 Pools)
Port Vale: Johnson, Veseli, Birchall (Jennings 65), Dickinson, McGivern, Marshall, Williamson (Dodds 73), Robertson, Lines, Pope, O'Connor (Brown 46)
Subs Not Used: Neal, Duffy, Yates, Lloyd
Pools: Flinders, Duckworth, Collins, Bates, Austin, Miller, Woods (Harewood 59), Walker, Brobbel, Franks, James
Subs Not Used: Barber, Richards, Compton, Smith, Hawkins, Holden