A fighting finish from Hartlepool United was not enough to save them from defeat at Stockport County.Pools were off the pace in the first 45 minutes at Edgeley Park, trailing 2-0 to goals by Ash Palmer and Tom Walker.
However, the second 45 was considerably better and two subs combined to pull goal back in the 86th minute when Gavin Holohan’s shot was parried by Ben Hinchliffe for Nicke Kabamba’s first goal of the season.
It inspired a great effort from Craig Hignett’s side at the death but they could not fashion an equaliser.
Pools fell behind in the sixth minute when they conceded from the game’s opening corner, from Adam Thomas. The ball was rolled into the middle of the area, where Ash Palmer found Ben Killip’s right corner with his left-foot shot.
It was almost two, just two minutes later when Sam Minihan made a terrific run up the right before Tom Walker’s left-foot shot from the edge of the box was saved onto the right post by Killip.
Pools were almost back on terms on 20 minutes with their best move to date, but Ryan Donaldson fired over the bar.
But just 60 seconds later, County went up the other end to go two up.Fraser Kerr got a block in to deny Niall Bell, but the ball fell nicely for Tom Walker who picked his spot and duly found it.
Pools had some promising moments but Mark Kitching fizzed a shot wide of the keeper’s left stick from the left side of the box and Donaldson was not far away with a curling left-footer.
However, it was almost 3-0 a minute before the interval when County got behind the green defence too easily, but Thomas’s shot was deflects off bar and over for corner.
Hignett made a change at the break, bringing on Josh Hawkes for Kenton Richardson and going to a back four.
Hawkes was straight into the action, finding Peter Kioso on the right who fizzed a ball across the six-yard box but no-one in green was there.
Pools made a a second alteration, introducing Nicke Kabamba who was straight into the action, heading over a Kitching cross before a Gime Toure header was pawed away, unconvincingly, by Ben Hinchcliffe.
But at the other end, it could have been three but Bell smashed wide at the back post with the goal gaping.
There were sights at goal for Pools when a Hawkes free-kick was headed wide by former County man, Michael Raynes, before Hawkes shot wide from distance and Gus Mafuta had an effort from outside their caught by Hinchcliffe.
Pools kept pressing and Toure fired just over after nice inter-change with Featherstone.
Hignett’s side finally gained reward five minutes from time when Holohan’s powerful left-footed shot saved was by Hinchliffe but only as far as Kabamba who put in the rebound.
It sparked a late assault by Pools but Kabamba could not quite get on end of a Holohan ball minute later while in the final seconds of normal time, Hinchliffe produced a brilliant save to tip over a Toure shot.
Pools would not give up and when Kabamba was fouled at the end of added time it presented them with a great chance 21 yards out, only for Hawkes to put the free-kick over the bar with the last kick of the contest.
Full Time: Stockport County 2 Pools 1
Stockport County: Hinchliffe; Arthur, Palmer, Keane; Minihan, Turnbull, S Walker, Leesley; T Walker (Osborne 82); Bell (Mulhern 74), Thomas (Cowan 65).
Subs not used: Ormson, Hammil
Goal: Palmer 6, T Walker 21
Booked: Turnbull 49, Leesley 62
Pools: Killip, Kerr, Raynes, Richardson (Hawkes 46); Kioso (Holohan 77), Featherstone, Mafuta, Kitching; Donaldson James (Kabamba 63), Toure.
Subs not used: Cunningham, Bale
Goal: Kabamba 86
Booked: Mafuta 62, Hawkes 65
Referee: Simon Mather
Attendance: 3,465 (Pools 168)