Ten-man Pools lost 2-1 to Crawley Town on a frustrating afternoon at Victoria Park, with defender Scott Harrison receiving his marching orders just after the hour mark.
It was a disappointing first half from Ronnie Moore’s men but, with the second half starting to show more promise, Harrison was shown what looked to be a harsh red card and Crawley capitalised from there.
It was an unsettled start to the game, with both sides setting out with an attacking intention and the opening minutes were end-to-end.
Rakish Bingham was lively for Pools, while Matt Harrold saw a header go just over the bar within the first five minutes.
Trevor Carson was called into action after a Nicky Featherstone slip allowed Crawley to push through on goal but fortunately the Pools keeper was on alert and he got down to make a good save.
At the other end, the determined Rhys Oates powered in field to send a rocket shot at goal from the edge of the box. His shot was saved by Darryl Flahavan but ti was a good effort from Oates.
Carson was back in action just after Rhys Murphy turned well inside the box to shoot at the Pools keeper but again it was Carson who came out on top as he blocked the shot with his feet.
From then on in it was largely Crawley Town who threatened to open the scoring; Matt Harrold’s aerial presence was a real problem for Pools and they struggled to cope with the big striker ho was instrumental is the majority of attacks.
Shamir Fenelon looked set to score after picking up a cross from Gwion Edwards after his good work down the left but the final shot went wide of the far post.
Josh Yorwerth met a corner with a shot but sent the ball into the side netting as the visitors continued to push on goal.
And while Crawley Town pushed forward at every opportunity, Pools lacked a real spark and struggled to get any real hold of the game and, in the end, they were fortunate to go in at 0-0 at the break.
Ronnie Moore clearly wanted a different option for his team after the break and he introduced Jason Banton and Michael Woods to the game at half time – hoping to plug some gaps in the side.
It took a few minutes but Pools did start to look brighter and there were a couple of chances to excite the crowd, one instigated by Banton who set up Bingham to run on at goal.
And Pools began to rely on Banton as their main outlet, using the winger on both flanks to force play in the right direction.
But just as Moore’s side began to get a grip of the game, the major talking point of the game occurred.
Trevor Carson pulled off a great save to deny Gwion Edwards and, as the Crawley man stepped up and smashed the loose ball at goal, Scott Harrison blocked the effort on the line and saw the ball go wide.
But just as Harrison’s teammates arrived to congratulate him, official Mr Heywood also arrived to show the defender a red card for handball and award the visitors a penalty kick.
Former Pools man stepped up to take the spotkick and sent Carson the wrong way to give his side a 1-0 lead just after the hour mark.
Pools looked shaky at the back for a spell following the goal but gradually began asking questions at the other end once more.
And, on 80 minutes, a corner from the right picked out Billy Paynter inside the box and he sent a well-executed header through the box and into the back of the net.
The goal set up for an exciting finish to the game but there was more controversy as an apparent Crawley handball inside the box went unnoticed by the officials.
But an aggrieved Pools were starting to really battle and, when Simon Walton sent a back pass short, Bingham nipped in to steal possession only to see his final shot saved well by Flahavan.
There was a late chance for Magnus Okuonghae to make an impression at the other end as he sent an effort towards goal but the ball went just wide of the post in what was the final chance of the game for Pools.
And so the game finished in defeat and, while there are questions to be asked over some decisions made this afternoon, it is a disappointing result for Ronnie Moore’s side.
Full Time: Pools 1 Crawley Town 2
Attendance: 3262 (87 Crawley Town)
Booked: Woods (90)
Sent Off: Harrison (64)
Pools: Carson, Hendrie, Harrison, Okuonghae, Jones (Duckworth 61), Oates, Walker (Woods 46), Featherstone, Carroll (Banton 46), Bingham, Paynter.
Subs Not Used: Bartlett, Bates, Oyenuga, Fenwick.
Crawley Town: Flahavan, Walton (Jenkins 84), Bradley, Edwards, Smith, Young, Fenelon (Scales 66), Harrold, Hancock, Yorwerth, Murphy (Deacon 87).
Subs Not Used: Barnard, Rooney, Preston, Ashton.