MANAGERLESS Hartlepool United have dropped back into the League Two relegation zone after a poor 3-1 defeat at Accrington Stanley.
Pools went behind to Shay McCartan in the 19th minute only to pull level through a Matthew Bates header three minutes before half-time.
They shot themselves in the foot though, conceding moments before the break through Rob Atkinson’s header.
McCartan then added a third in the second half.
Just 947 fans watched the match - with 109 of them making the trip from the North East.
Caretaker Pools boss Sam Collins opted against making any changes to his side for the match at the Storefirst Stadium.
That meant new loan signing, Matt Crooks, signed from Huddersfield Town on a month-long loan deal, started on the bench.
It was a scrappy start but Michael Duckworth came within inches of giving Pools the lead in the 7th minute, flashing a shot just wide from distance.
John Coleman’s side took the lead in the 19th minute, McCartan was given too much time and space to waltz his way through the centre of the Pools defence.
He then curled a lovely right-footed effort from inside the area past Flinders.
Collins, again prowling the touchline, was urging his side to get back into the game.
They almost did in the 30th minute, Wyke and Michael Woods combining well before the latter’s well-struck shot was tipped over the bar.
Pools kept at it and got their rewards in the 42nd minute.
Matthew Bates jumping highest to flick the ball past Jesse Joronen from a Ryan Brobbel free-kick from the left wing.
It seemed like Pools were going to go into the break level but the home side had other ideas.
With just a minute left to play, John O’Sullivan whipped in a corner and Rob Atkinson jumped highest to head the ball home.
It was a free header and the simplest of goals and highly frustrating for Collins & Co.
Wyke was taken off at the break, with new signing Crooks making his Pools debut up front and Pools switching to a 4-4-2 formation.
Crooks almost got struggling Pools back into the match within minutes of his debut but he failed to connect properly after showing good strength to get into the box.
There were several half chances for both sides but nothing clear cut as the half wore on.
With twelve minutes left to play, McCartan scored his second of the match to put Stanley 3-1 up.
It was a scruffy goal to concede, with McCartan free to poke the ball home from close range past Flinders.
Defeat saw Pools drop to second bottom in League Two.
Pools (4-3-3): Flinders (C), Duckworth, Austin, Harrison, Jones, Miller, Bates, Woods, Brobbel (Franks, 57), Hawkins (Smith, 64), Wyke (Crooks, 45).
Subs Not Used: Woodman, Richards, Green, Walker.
Goal: Bates (42)
Accrington (4-5-1): Joronen, Joyce (C), Aldred, Winnard, McCartan (Hatfield, 80), Gray (Carver, 74), O’Sullivan, Maguire (Barry, 63), Molyneux, Procter, Atkinson.
Subs Not Used: Bowerman, Mingoia, Windass, Simpson.
Goal: McCartan (19, 78)), Atkinson (45)
Booking: Aldred, Carver.
Referee: Andrew Madley (Wakefield)
Attendance 947 (Pools 109)