Hartlepool United were unable to follow up their victory at Sheffield United as they fell to a home defeat against Preston North End.
Report from Victoria Park
Hartlepool manager John Hughes kept faith with the same team that beat league leaders Sheffield United on Saturday for the visit of struggling Preston.
Looking to build on the excellent performance at Bramall Lane, Pools started the game positively and enjoyed the majority of the possession in the first half. However, clear cut chances on goal remained few and far between.
The best came when Jordan Richards whipped in a cross for Steve Howard just after the half hour mark, but the forward was unable to reach the ball ahead of the Preston defender at the back post.
Both sides continued to look most threatening from set pieces.
With half time fast approaching the visitors were handed a golden chance to score from the spot after Peter Hartley needlessly tripped Stuart Beavon in the area.
Nicky Wroe stepped up to take the spot kick but the ball was well saved by Scott Flinders in the home goal.
But the keeper would go from hero to zero in the space of a few minutes when John Mousinho’s header from a corner went between Flinders’ legs to give Preston the lead at the break.
Although behind at the half time interval, Pools had been the better side in the first half, which made their woeful second half performance all the more shocking.
Tactical mistakes from the dugout left Pools chasing the game and looking lost against a Preston side who were hardly stretched in the second half.
The decision to replace Simon Walton with Neil Austin was bemusing and saw Pools lose any semblance of shape or creativity in the middle of the pitch as an out-of-position Austin sat on the toes of the back four for the remainder of the game.
Although jeered by some sections of the home support as he left the field, the loss of Walton’s influence in the middle of the park saw proved terminal for Pools.
The rest of the midfield spent too much of the game bunched up in the centre of the park while Jonathan Franks, who had worked so well with Jordan Richards on the right flank against Sheff Utd on Saturday, was positioned on the left of the pitch, in the centre and behind the strikers at various points in the game.
North End were happy to let the clock run down with little to fear from the home side. The decision to bring on James Poole and Luke James as substitutes, only to punt aimless long balls to the diminutive attackers summed up the lack of thought from the bench.
The fact Pools’ best chance came deep into stoppage time, after Scott Flinders went forward for a corner and caused a goalmouth scramble, showed that Saturday’s result merely papered over the cracks at HUFC rather than signaling a change in fortune for John Hughes’ hopeless side.
FT: Hartlepool 0 Preston North End 1
Hartlepool: Flinders, Richards, Collins, Hartley, Horwood, Walton (Austin 51), Sweeney, Humphreys, Franks (James 83), Howard, Wyke (Poole 74)
Subs not used: McHugh, Baldwin, Holden, Monkhouse
Preston North End: Simonsen, Cansdell-Sherriff, Wroe (Procter 86), Kane, Buchanan (Byrom 74) Welsh, Mousinho, King, Wright (Robertson 35), Foster, Beavon
Subs not used: Stuckmann, Cummins, Beardsley, Elding