Pools fell to a slender defeat at Stevenage on the opening day in a game which ended controversially when Colin Cooper’s men were denied an injury time penalty.Instead, Charlie Lee’s second half drive was enough to separate the sides and continue Pools’ luckless run against the Hertfordshire outfit who have now won four of the six meetings between the two clubs.
It was Pools who started on the front foot and could have gone in to an early lead when Marlon Harewood did well to feed Jack Compton in down the right of the penalty area but the winger’s clipped effort came back off the crossbar and Stevenage survived.
The hosts responded quickly when new signing Adam Marriott fired a low effort and Scott Flinders, while Darius Charles came closer to scoring when he curled a low shot just wide after a robust Jon Ashton challenge on Tommy Miller had gone unpunished and allowed the attack to build.
Brad Walker was caught in possession on the half way line but Chris Whelpdale smashed his effort wide as the home side began to get the better of proceedings in a high-tempo encounter.
Wonderful defending prevented Marriott opening his Boro account moments later after Charles had burst clear down the left to feed his strike partner – Sam Collins sliding in right in the nick of time to take the ball off the front man’s foot and Flinders smothered the rebound.
A corner from the training ground almost gave Tommy Miller a dream return to the side when he ran on to Walker’s clever low ball to the front post but his well-struck shot was blocked by a defender.
Marriott had another deflected shot held by Flinders down to his right before Luke James got one on one with the defender on the back of Compton’s incisive ball only for his shot to loop off the defender and over the target.
Flinders then backed up his solid pre-season form with the sort of incredible save he’s become noted for; a free-kick was rolled low in to the box where defender Dean Wells was able to send a powerful effort goalwards which the Pools keeper somehow managed to turn around the post.
Harewood produced some good defensive work to block a shot from Charlie Lee after the midfielder had got free on the right of the box, while Charles saw a tame volley blocked after he had claimed the ball on his chest twenty yards out.
Pools had the final opening of the half though when Michael Duckworth produced a typically mazy run in to the area where he fed Stuart Parnaby but the debutant sent a tentative effort over the bar.
Graham Westley’s side began the second half on the attack too and Lee did well to spin in to enough space to shoot but sent a poor effort well wide of the target.
Flinders made another outstanding save to deny Marriott after the striker sent a powerful volley on goal while at the other end Pools threatened when Walker’s shot was blocked following good work from Harewood on the edge of the area.
Charles was the next Stevenage player to be denied by Flinders when the Pools keeper flung himself to his right to palm away the front man’s pinpoint curler.
However, Pools failed to fully clear the rebound and Lee did well to cut inside and deliver a low drive that left Flinders with no chance and put the hosts one goal up.
After that Stevenage did their best to try and control the game but Pools –bouyed by the introduction of the lively Ryan Brobbel and Jonathan Franks - almost dragged themselves level when Jack Compton’s right-wing corner was glanced just wide at the far post by Sam Collins.
And the chance to claim a hard-earned point from the spot late on was denied when the officials failed to give a penalty when it looked as though Brobbel had been upended by Stevenage substitute Akimo.
It was the final act on a disappointing opening day for Pools who had looked for so long like being able to keep the hosts at bay and return home with at least a point.