Pools Fight To Victory At Tranmere
Neil Austin’s first-half strike gave Pools all three points at Tranmere Rovers this afternoon to keep maintain the team’s League One status for another day.
Pools fought hard throughout the match to keep Rovers at bay, battling for every ball and putting in a strong display to take the points.
Pools looked confident from the off here this afternoon and had the first chance of the game after less than three minutes of play.
Jack Baldwin intercepted a poor pass in the middle to set Jonathan Franks running in down the right; the winger opened up well to force his way into the area and send a low shot across the face of goal, jut creeping wide of the far post.
Tranmere enjoyed brief respite when the lively Jean-Louis Apka Akpro turned and shot inside the area but he saw his effort rise over the bar.
Pools were awarded a freekick in the left channel on nine minutes and Franks stepped up to send a curling effort into the box. But as the ball sailed towards Peter Hartley at the far post, the Pools’ skipper found himself being held down by Tranmere’s Ben Gibson and, with the referee close-by, he was quick to point to the penalty spot.
Simon Walton stepped up to take the penalty kick and while his weak effort was blocked by Owain Fon-Williams, Neil Austin showed quickest reactions to pounce on the loose ball and poke home to give his side an early lead.
The goal gave Pools a real boost, while serving to further frustrate an already-anxious home crowd and it was John Hughes’ side who went on to dominate for much of the first forty-five.
Franks was key for Pools early on, showing some good movement and using his pace well to push the team forward, while Luke James really stood out with his determination and running as the lone striker against a physical back line.
With Pools on top, James broke forward to force his way into the area and, after seeing his shot blocked by the defender, Franks was on hand to fire the loose ball at goal – but his effort was deflected wide.
The hosts had to pay a patient game and enjoyed more of the ball in the latter stages of the first half.
Andy Robinson went closest to an equaliser as he jinked his way past two before unleashing a powerful strike through the area which needed a touch from Scott Flinders, and then the post to take it wide of goal.
Pools were made to work hard in the closing minutes to hold onto their lead going into the break but the hard work paid off as Hughes’ men left the pitch with the advantage.
After finishing the first half brighter, it was Tranmere who came out strongest after the interval and for a spell, Pools struggled to get out of their own box, with Monkhouse, Hartley and then Flinders all getting crucial blocks in.
And then the referee evened things up for the hosts as he awarded them a dubious penalty; Akpa Akpro went through into the area and, after a challenge from Hartley fell to the floor – the assistant referee nearest was quick to raise his flag for the spot kick.
Andy Robinson stepped up to take the penalty for the hosts and, with the home fans getting ready to celebrate an equaliser, Scott Flinders pulled off yet another top quality save to deny the goal and maintain the lead for Pools.
The atmosphere and energy both on and off the pitch was electric following the goal as Tranmere continued to push forward in numbers and Pools fought back with a real determination, throwing themselves at every ball.
A succession of corners for the hosts kept Pools busy but Simon Walton, who was working well to protect the back four, reacted to keep both out - but the respite was momentary as the hosts kept coming.
A tireless James, Franks and Monkhouse did offer an outlet for Pools on the break and they did look lively when given the ball to break forward, ensuring Flinders was not the only keeper to see the ball.
Tranmere sub Cole Stockton went close as he found space on the edge of the box to fire on goal but his shot rose just over the bar.
For all of their possession though, the hosts were limited to actual shots on goal as Pools really battled hard throughout.
The effect of Luke James’ input into this afternoon’s game was highlighted when he was substituted on 88 minutes – to applause from both sets of fans.
With results elsewhere meaning a goal conceded could have seen Pools relegated this afternoon, the final minutes were even tenser for those watching from the stands.
But Pools held on for the win, meaning Hughes’ side are now five points from safety – with six points remaining to be played for.
Full Time: Tranmere Rovers 0 Pools 1
Booked: Tranmere – Power (9), Gibson (21): Pools - Monkhouse (40), Rutherford (90)
Tranmere Rovers: Fon Williams, Holmes, Taylor, Palmer, Robinson (O’Halloran 83), Bakayogo, Power, Gibson, Bell-Baggie (Thompson), Sidibe (Stockton), Akpa Akpro
Subs Not Used: Goodison, Harrison, Kay, Mooney
Pools: Flinders, Austin, Collins, Hartley,Holden, Franks (Sweeney 74), Walton, Baldwin, Monkhouse, Humphreys, James (Rutherford 88)
Subs Not Used: McHugh, Horwood, Hawkins, Luscombe, Boagey