Pools suffered a fifth successive National League defeat as bottom-side Dover Athletic claimed all the points at Crabble Athletic Groun
Matthew Bates men were made to pay for a sluggish first half in which the hosts fired two unanswered goals and rendered Josh Hawkes’ late strike a mere consolation.
The Pools boss opted to make three changes to his starting eleven, reverting to a 3-5-2 formation and bringing Myles Anderson and Peter Kioso back in to the eleven, while Tyrone O’Neill’s midweek goal against Gillingham was rewarded with a starting spot in attack alongside Luke James.
There was no place for Andrew Davies (calf) and Conor Newton (illness), while Bates made the decision to leave Liam Noble out of the squad.
There was a high-tempo start to the game but chances were few and far between for either side until Bobby-Joe Taylor let fly from the edge of the area and Scott Loach had to alert to turn the short round the post.
That sparked the hosts in to life and Inih Effiong came mightily-close to making it 1-0 when he directed a far post header back across goal but it grazed the woodwork on its way wide.
Jamie Allen was next to try his luck after picking up possession on the right of the area but his low drive across goal was well parried by Loach.
Carl Magnay tested Dover keeper Mitch Walker with a curling shot after Athletic failed to clear a corner, while Ryan Donaldson drove his way through the home defence but saw his shot deflected wide.
However, on 20 minutes hosts stole in front when Pools didn’t deal with a ball in to the box and Effiong slipped it through to Bedsente Gomis who finished neatly past Loach for 1-0.
There was a great chance for Pools to get back on level terms almost immediately when a deep corner from McLaughlin found Peter Kioso at the far post but he nodded a header wide of the target.
McLaughlin then came close himself when the ball fell loose to him twenty-five yards out; the Northern Irishman set it on to his right foot and hammered a shot on goal which flashed just wide of the post.
Just before the half-hour mark the home side double their lead though; full-back Joshua Bedayo was allowed to run a long way with the ball down the left and, when his low ball in to the box wasn’t fully cleared, Offiong rifled home Dover’s second goal.
Pools began the second half with a little more spirit but Offiong could have finished the contest on 54 minutes when a ball across found him at the far post but he somehow managed to scoop it over from no more than three yards.
McLaughlin found space to turn smartly inside from the right and things opened up for him to have a shot from the edge of the box but he went for power and it flew too high.
By this stage Pools had rung the changes and substitute Marcus Dinanga had a great chance when Carl Magnay nodded McLaughlin’s deep free-kick back across the face of goal but the front man’s header was directed wide.
With seven minutes left fellow sub Josh Hawkes did find the net to set up a tense finish – the midfielder did brilliantly to weave his way in from the left and drilled a low finish under Mitch Walker to make it 2-1.
There was almost injury-time drama when Scott Loach came up for a corner but nodded wide and there were also desperate appeals for penalty from Pools players as another ball came in to the area – but the referee’s whistle sounded only to denote full-time.
Full Time: Dover Athletic 2 Pools 1
Dover Athletic: Walker, Passley, Debayo, Lewis, Lokko, Brundle, Gomis (Nortey 76), Taylor, Allen, Reason (Jeffrey 74), Effiong (Sho-Silva 90).
Subs not used: Diarra, Worgan.
Booked: Taylor, Effiong..
Pools: Loach, Kioso, Richardson (Hawkes 70), Magnay, Anderson, Kitching, Donaldson, Featherstone, McLaughlin, James (Muir 70), O’Neill (Dinanga 61).
Subs not used: Catterick, Butler.
Attendance: 1,027 (109 Pools).