Pools were defeated by promotion-chasing Portsmouth in their final home game of the season as goals from Kal Naismith and Conor Chaplin did the damage for the visitors.
Both goals came in the second half with Naismith turning in Gareth Evans’ low cross to make it 1-0 and, although Pools rallied, substitute Chaplin converted a second with five minutes left.
Craig Hignett had made two changes to his starting eleven for the game as skipper Billy Paynter returned following five games out with hamstring trouble and Dan Jones came in at left-back in place of Jake Carroll who had a calf strain.
Pools started the game in encouraging fashion and went at their visitors in the opening exchanges but it was Pompey who carved out the first opening on the break; the dangerous Gary Roberts wriggled on to his left foot on the right of the box and curled an effort towards the far corner which looked likely to test Trevor Carson until team-mate Kal Naismith inadvertently deflected it wide.
While Portsmouth settled in to the game and enjoyed greater possession during the opening period, Pools continued to look a threat at the other end though neither side created too much in the way of clear cut opportunities.
Nathan Thomas hit a shot straight at goalkeeper Brian Murphy, while former Pools loan man Christian Burgess floated a cross in to the box only for Michael Smith to head over.
The biggest opening arrived after Paynter played a slack pass and Paul Cook’s men slipped a ball through to Gareth Evans on the edge of the box but Carson did well to block his first drilled effort and also got to the rebound to keep it goalless.
Thomas got to the byline on the right side of the Portsmouth box – staying honest under a shoulder tug which could have resulted in a penalty – but his low cross in to the middle was steered clear by a defender.
The Pools winger was warming to his task and he was on his bike again moments later when he cruised in to the right side of the box and fired a shot on goal which was deflected over – though Michael Woods was left screaming for a pass in the middle of the area.
There was some desperate defending by the visiting side from the resultant corner as they made a meal of getting it clear, Naismith finally putting his foot through the ball as Pools couldn’t quite force it home.
The second half began in a similar fashion and Luke James, moving across to the left-hand side, took hold of the ball and spun skilfully to earn a yard for a shot but his effort was tame and from long-distance so was held comfortably by Murphy.
Naismith had been in teasing form on right and left for Pompey and he made his presence felt just before the hour mark when Evans got away down the right and fed a low ball in to the middle for the former Pools loan man to cleverly flick it beyond Carson and open the scoring in front of the near-1000 travelling support.
Paynter then had a great chance to pull Pools level instantly when a ball was slipped through to him twenty yards out and the front man did everything right with a low finish to the goalkeeper’s left but Murphy got down to make a fantastic block.
Carson then took centre-stage again for Pools – as he’s done so often this term. First, Smith did well to poke a ball over the top for Roberts and the attacker took his time to measure a powerful finish but somehow the Pools keeper finger-tipped it round the post.
Then, just moments later, Smith beat the offside trap to race clear and looked odds-on to open the scoring – only for Carson to throw out a strong right hand to superbly block his goalbound strike.
Oates replaced the tiring Paynter midway through the second half and almost made an immediate impact as he raced clear within seconds only to be denied by an excellent block from Murphy.
An even better chance fell to James shortly afterwards when Dan Jones’ long throw in to the box fell close to the striker; unfortunately it got slightly stuck under his feet and, by the time he got a shot away, the defenders had converged upon him to block the effort.
Nicky Featherstone had to be alert to block an Evans shot after he was teed up by Smith, while the dangerous Thomas almost created a goal for Oates but his fizzed cross was nodded over the substitute.
Portsmouth secured the points with five minutes left though when a typically slick attack down the left freed full-back Enda Stevens and his low ball was clinically converted by sub Conor Chaplin for his 11th goal of the campaign.
Defeat was perhaps harsh on Pools but it was again down the final thirds where once again Craig Hignett’s men just couldn’t find a route to goal and were made to pay for their wastefulness.
Full Time: Pools 0 Portsmouth 2
Pools: Carson, Magnay, Bates (R Jones 50), Jackson, D Jones, Featherstone, Hawkins, Woods (Gray 76), James, Paynter (Oates 68), Thomas.
Subs not used: Bartlett, Richards, Walker, Bingham.
Portsmouth: Murphy, Stevens, Burgess (Whatmough 89), Barton, Freeman, Doyle, Hollands, Naismith (McGurk 64), Roberts, Evans, Smith (Chaplin 73).
Subs not used: Davies, Tollitt, Close, Haunstrup.
Booked: D Jones (Pools), Freeman (Portsmouth)
Attendance: 5,046 (933 Portsmouth)