POOLS SURVIVE ANOTHER WEEK AT BOTTOM
TRANMERE......0 HARTLEPOOL ..1 Defeat leaves Rovers’ play-off bid in ruins
RONNIE Moore admitted he is sifting through the wreckage of his Tranmere team after Neil Austin threw Hartlepool a precious lifeline in a tale of two penalties at Prenton Park.
Austin put away the rebound to nab a vital three points after Simon Walton had seen a contentious penalty saved before Scott Flinders denied Andy Robinson the chance to square matters from the spot at the other end.
The result leaves Rovers’ play-off hopes hanging by a thread with the previously dominant league leaders having failed to score in seven of their last nine games to sit ninth.
Hartlepool live to fight another day despite hovering dangerously over the League One trap door – they are five points shy of safety with only six to play for.
“It hurts,” Moore said. “I am angry because I can see what we have thrown away.”
“We are a wreck as a team right now compared to the fluency we showed earlier in the season.We went out of the game with a whimper and it has to mean more to the players.
“We are playing like we are a bottom four team. The penalty given to Hartlepool was a ridiculous decision.
“Our penalty came at the right time but the save just about summed up our last two months. I don’t know where our next goal is coming from.”
Tranmere’s temperature was raised when referee Lee Collins pointed to the spot after ruling that Ben Gibson had held Sam Collins in the box.
Rovers fans thought justice had been done when Owain Fon Williams kept out Simon Walton’s resulting spot-kick but Austin pounced to slide home the rebound ten minutes in.
Andy Robinson almost produced a 37th minute equaliser when he tricked his way beyond two United defenders before striking the outside of the post.
And he suffered a similar agonising fate when Rovers were awarded a penalty of their own 12 minutes after the break with Scott Flinders superbly tipping his effort onto the crossbar after Peter Hartley was judged to have felled Jean Louis Akpa-Akpro.
Tranmere substitute Cole Stockton flashed a 73rd minute shot over the bar after entering the fray. But that was to be as close as Rovers came to fashioning anything from the game as Akpa-Akpro’s wildly struck free-kick just about summing up Tranmere’s day late on amid a chorus of boos at the final whistle.
Hartlepool manager John Hughes said:“It was a great win in terms of effort and commitment. It was a rearguard action but the penalty gave us something to hang onto and we certainly did that. There were eleven heroes on the pitch plus the substitutes and we were just happy to see the ball hit the back of the net.
“There was plenty of pride evident in our performance and it was such a crucial game.We showed courage and we had to want it more – it was critical. We can play better football but it was a must win cup final if you like.”
DECIDER: Neil Austin, left, celebrates after scoring the winner for Hartlepool with Andy Monkhouse
ON HAND: Tranmere’s Owain Fon Williams saves Simon Walton’s penalty