Hartlepool United were defeated 2-0 on the road at Salford City as two first-half strikes sunk John Askey’s side.
Dan Kemp had an early chance for Pools after a Cooke interception, but it was dragged with of Cairns’ goal. Jamie Sterry also saw a header saved as Askey’s side put the pressure on Salford from the off.
Moments later, the biggest chance so far fell to Pruti, but his header was collected well by Cairns. At the other end, Salford had a chance of their own, but Stolarczyk did enough to stop Smith making any meaningful contact with it.
The first goal came after 14 minutes, and it was the hosts that struck. A cross to the back post found Matt Smith, and he headed off the upright and beyond Stolarczyk.
Another chance followed for Salford, but Shephard’s cross evaded Barry and it remained 1-0 to the hosts. A big opportunity came for Askey’s side in the 22nd minute after good work between Sterry and Kemp, with Jennings turning the latter’s low cross just past the front-post.
Both sides were seeing chances fall their way, with Smith almost connecting with a Bolton cross and Kemp close to finding Umerah in the box after a good run from Dan Dodds.
Salford doubled their lead on the 28th minute, with Aston Villa loanee Louie Barry cutting inside and bending the ball beyond Stolarczyk into the back post.
After a drinks break, Pools looked to hit back, and Jennings saw his low drive well held by Cairns. They pushed forward again through Cooke and Sylla, but after Salford won it back, Hendry almost got a third - Stolarczyk’s save kept the deficit at two.
Umerah went into the book for a late challenge of Vassell towards the end of the half, with the striker showing his frustration after tangling with Vassell and Mariappa for much of the game.
A huge chance came Pools’ way with a few minutes of the half left, but Cooke’s deflected strike was palmed behind by Cairns for a corner.
After the break, Pools looked to put the pressure on Salford and Dan Dodds had a good effort fly over the bar from range. Wes McDonald joined the action in place of Umerah, and he saw a cross blocked after a trademark mazy run.
Jennings and Sterry combined well down the right with a few minutes to go, but Jennings’ cross evaded the Pools men in the box and Cairns gathered. At the other end, Hendry lifted the ball over Stolarczyk, but the assistant referee’s flag had long been raised.
Matt Smith was set away in the dying embers, but Stolarczyk stood up strong and made a good save from the striker.
Pools now turn their attention to Saturday as third-bottom Crawley Town come to a near-sold-out Suit Direct Stadium.
Pools XI: Stolarczyk; Sterry, Dodds, Pruti, Foran (Hamilton 76), Ferguson; Sylla, Cooke, Kemp (Finney 76); Umerah (McDonald 60), Jennings
Subs: Killip, Dolan, Featherstone, Crawford
Booked: Umerah, Hamilton
Attendance: 2,139 (500 Poolies)