Pools suffered their first defeat of pre-season on Saturday as Championship outfit Middlesbrough ran out 5-0 winners at Victoria Park.
Boro provided a shock to the system for Pools as they raced in to a four-goal lead by the break, adding another early in the second half as the visitors enjoyed a comfortable victory.
Matthew Bates had named a strong starting eleven for the final test of the warm-up campaign, with Peter Kioso back in to the team after missing the trip to Spennymoor Town and Paddy McLaughlin was among the substitutes after missing much of pre-season with a virus.
Former Pools keeper Dimi Konstantopoulos lined-up between the sticks for Boro, in a line-up which also included £15million front man Britt Assombalonga.
The first half-chance fell Boro’s way as they bundled their way through the Pools defence but Marcus Tavernier couldn’t connect cleanly with his shot and Scott Loach held it.
Peter Kioso set Pools up for their first menacing attack when he strode forward from centre-back to intercept possession on the halfway line and drive towards the penalty area before a defender got in the way and the opportunity evaporated.
Harry Chapman spurned the best chance of the early stages on 16 minutes when he got free on the left side of the penalty area but he scuffed his shot and it flew across the face of goal and wide.
Boro continued to make the most of the running during the first half and Lewis Wing let fly with a thunderous effort from the edge of the box which flew just too high.
The visitors went in front a little over ten minutes before the break. Wing sent another bullet towards goal which came down off the underside of the crossbar and bounced out to Chapman who saw his follow-up effort well blocked by Loach before Assombalonga bundled in the rebound from close range.
It was 2-0 just afterwards when Chapman broke beyond the Pools defence on the left. Andrew Davies’ appeals for a foul were ignored as the winger charged to the byline before squaring for Assombalonga to convert from close range.
Boro helped themselves to a third goal before the break when Wing showed great vision to split the Pools defence with a perfect ball to Ashley Fletcher who calmly rounded Loach before slotting in to the empty net.
Assombalonga cut in from the left to fire a shot on goal which was well-saved by Loach but the Boro front man wasn’t to be denied and he nodded home to complete his hat-trick from the resultant corner to send Tony Pulis’ men in 4-0 to the good at half-time.
The second half started in similarly disastrous fashion for Pools as Boro scored their fifth inside the first minute, this time Fletcher able to roll the ball home from the right side of the penalty area.
Pools could have grabbed a goal back just prior to the hour mark when Kioso got forward well down the left and then tucked the ball inside for Luke James but the striker didn’t strike his shot well and it went wide of the target.
Bates’ men got more in to the game as the second half developed and could have got on the scoresheet when Liam Noble’s right-wing corner found Davies but the defender’s header was just too high.
Substitute Jake Cassidy came closer to hitting the net when he first saw a close-range shot blocked before then heading the resultant corner inches wide of the post.
Full Time: Pools 0 Middlesbrough 5
Pools: Loach, Kioso, Kitching, Magnay, Davies (Laing 81), Donaldson, Newton (McLaughlin 62), Noble, Hawkes (Dinanga 46), Muir (Cassidy 74), James.
Subs not used: Catterick, Anderson, Richardson, Hawkins, Woods, Featherstone.
Middlesbrough: Konstantopoulos (Ripley 60), Mahmutovic, McGinley, Wing (Liddle 76), Fry, Wood (Spence 60), Leadbitter, Tavernier, Assombalonga (Desart 56), Fletcher, Chapman (Walker 76).
Attendance: 1,747 (544 Middlesbrough)