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Crewe Alex 2 Hartlepool United 1
HARTLEPOOL UNITED suffered a 2-1 loss at Crewe – and Neale Cooper will head home wondering how they returned home with nothing to show for their efforts.
After a much-improved home performance in midweek ended with a defeat to Sheffield United, so this followed suit.
This was their most completed performance away from Victoria Park this season and they went some way to restoring pride after the 5-0 Capital One Cup thumping here in August.
Pools took a 9th minute lead. Evan Horwood replaced Andy Monkhouse after 8 minutes and soon prodded them in front after an Antony Sweeney touch through the home back four.
After some strong defending, Pools were unlucky to concede a penalty five minutes before the break, when Peter Hartley slid in to block a AJ Leitch-Smith shot.
But from the spot kick, Mathias Pogba fired high over the bar.
It looked as if Pools would go in at the break with their lead intact, but on 45 minutes, Chuks Aneke, on loan from Arsenal, swept in a shot high into the net from 20 yards.
Loan signing Ryan Noble had two great chances to put Pools back in front. First he took Darren Holden’s pass and his goalbound effort was blocked by the advancing keeper Alan Martin.
Seconds later, he took possession off a Steve Howard flick and this time beat Martin, but Matt Tootle cleared off the line.
And so Pools paid for the missed openings, as a low free-kick by Luke Murphy bounced low across the area, defender Mark Ellis tapped in at the far post.
Pools still pressed and Neil Austin hit the bar from the edge of the area, Noble fired wide, likewise James Poole. Howard headed over the bar and Craig Lynch slid a shot into the side netting.
CREWE ALEX: Martin; Mellor, Ellis, Davies, Tootle; Aneke (Daniels 81), Murphy, Bond, Pogba; Clayton (Turton 89), Leitch-Smith (Dugdale 90). Subs: Garrett (gk), Robertson, Ray, Daniels, Waters.
HARTLEPOOL UNITED: Flinders; Austin, Baldwin, Hartley, Holden; Franks (Lynch 81), Murray, Sweeney, Monkhouse (Horwood 8); Noble (Poole 81), Howard. Subs: Humphreys, James, Collins, McHugh (gk).