Pools fell to their first defeat of pre-season as neighbours Middlesbrough ran out winners in a friendly meeting on Sunday afternoon.
Having thumped a trio of Northern League sides in their opening runouts of the warm-up campaign, Craig Hignett knew his side would be more extensively tested by the Teessiders.
And so it proved, with Jonathan Woodgate’s men showing much more efficiency in front of goal during an entertaining encounter played out in the early-afternoon sunshine.
Boro settled in to the game very quickly and began zipping the ball around on the pristine surface with real confidence and Pools were forced on to the back foot.
Indeed, Jonathan Woodgate’s men could have got off to the perfect start when Rudy Gestede’s brilliant flick round the corner set Paddy McNair away but the midfielder drilled his effort too high.
However, the visitors were in front on five minutes when a free-kick on the right was nudged short for Marcus Tavernier and he struck a firm low drive in to the bottom corner of the net from twenty-five yards.
To Pools’ credit, they responded reasonably well to the setback and began to grow in to the game, with Gime Toure’s pace and direct running causing a few problems for the Boro defence.
The Frenchman came close to scoring a leveller after one such dart in to the area but he then drove a powerful shot over the bar from a tight angle.
Adam Clayton tested Killip from long range but the keeper held the strike comfortably before the Pools keeper was once again the right place to claim McNair’s low shot.
Luke Molyneux’s corner from the right was cleared but worked back across to the winger on the right but, when he darted infield to find a yard, he flashed a shot across goal and wide.
Boro doubled their lead nine minutes before the break though; a wonderful switch of play from Hayden Coulson found Jonny Howson in space and his pinpoint cross from the right was clinically headed home by Gestede from ten yards.
Howson almost caught out Killip with an overhit cross but the Pools keeper did well to back-pedal and tip the ball over – only for the resultant corner to find Aden Flint at the back post who knocked it home to make it 3-0.
Pools began the second half in encouraging fashion and Kabamba’s header was perfectly in to the path of Molyneux who took a touch to steady himself before smashing a wonderful effort on goal which was well tipped-over by Boro’s substitute keeper Aynsley Pears.
A driving run from Gavan Holohan created an opening for Nicke Kabamba who could only shoot wide on the turn, while at the other end Howson fired over after getting forward well from full-back.
Killip had to be alert to deny the dangerous Tavernier a goal when he let fly with a powerful left-foot drive which the Pools keeper did well to parry away to safety.
Pools should have pulled one back as the hour approached when Kabamba seized on some hesitant defending and forced a good save from Pears but Toure could only smash the rebound in the outside of the post and Boro survived.
Woodgate’s men then made Pools pay for the miss as they extended their lead just a minute later – a flowing team move saw the ball worked in to the box for George Saville who arrived to apply a sweet finish in to the bottom corner for 4-0.
A raft of changes arrived for both sides just after the hour and they almost paid dividends for Pools when Luke James raided down the left before clipping a ball across for the arriving Liam Noble who was only denied a goal by Pears’ excellent block.
Niko Muir steered a shot just wide of the far post after finding space on the edge of the area as Pools continued to press for a consolation goal during the second half.
James did well to wriggle in to a shooting position twenty-five yards out but his low effort was finger-tipped round the post by Pears at full stretch with time ticking away.
Full Time: Pools 0 Middlesbrough 4
Pools: Killip, Kioso, Kerr, Raynes (Cunningham 64), Richardson, Mafuta (Featherstone 57), Kennedy (Noble 64), Holohan (Bale 64), Toure (James 64), Molyneux (Hawkes 64), Kabamba (Muir 64).
Subs not used: Young, Shepherd, Webster.
Middlesbrough: Mejias (Pears 46), Howson (Spence 64), Coulson (Reading 64), Flint, Shotton, Clayton (Wearne 75), Tavernier (Fletcher 64), McNair (Malley 64), Gestede (Armstrong 75), Braithwaite (Johnson 46), Saville (Wing 64).
Subs not used: Wood, Stubbs.
Attendance: 3,173 (1,633 Middlesbrough)
Referee: Tony Harrington.