Portsmouth 1 Hartlepool United 0

Hartlepool United winger James Pools gets in a 1st half cross against Portsmouth PICTURE BY FRANK REID.

Hartlepool United winger James Pools gets in a 1st half cross against Portsmouth PICTURE BY FRANK REID.

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HARTLEPOOL United suffered their fourth defeat in a row when they went down to an early goal at Portsmouth.

Pompey, fighting relegation, held on to a second minute lead through Adam Webster.

After struggling in the first 45 minutes, Pools huffed and puffed in the second half but could not find an equaliser.

Pools brought in Andy Rafferty for his first start of the season at Fratton Par.

The keeper replaced Scott Flinders, who has been suffering from a migraine.

Rated as one of the best goalies in League Two, Flinders has been suffering from headaches over the last two days and while he travelled to the South Coast, he felt too ill to play.

Highly-rated Rafferty has been at Pools for three seasons but his opportunities have been limited.

He came on as a sub at Nottingham Forest in the Capital One Cup earlier in the season.

Boss Colin Cooper made one further change, bringing in James Poole for Jonathan Franks.

Rafferty was picking the ball out of his net inside the first 90 seconds.

Pools conceded a free-kick out on the left which Ricky Holmes swung into the box. Ryan Taylor headed towards goal, with Rafferty making a great save, diving to his right.#

But WEBSTER was there to put the rebound into the empty Pools net.

And it should have been 2-0 inside three minutes.

Wes Fogden was brought down in the box by a poorly-executed Christian Burgess tackle.

Referee Andy D’Urso pointed to the spot but Ryan Taylor saw his penalty superbly saved diving low to his right, with Ricky Holmes skying the rebound.

Pools looked shell-shocked and were struggling to keep the ball.

But they saw their first sight of the home goal in the ninth minute.

James Poole did well down the right and Jack Barmby tried his luck from the edge of the area, his left-foot shot going wide of Trevor Carson’s right-hand post.

It was tough going for Pools but they were not helping their cause by puttting two free-kicks straight out of play.

Thankfully, the game calmed down somewhat, but Pools were still making little impression going forward or, in fact, in any area of the park.

There was brief excitement in the 28th minute when Barmby showed some neat trickery on the edge of the home box.

But he played the ball to Compton, whose cross from the left was poor.

And there was more excitement soon after.

Poole made a brilliant turn on half way to run towards goal. Instead of shooting himself, he tried to play in Compton who was ruled offside, though his shot was blocked anyway.

Pools won a 35th-minute corner which Simon Walton swung over from the left but the keeper came out decisively.

It was almost two in the 43rd minute, Hollands was allowed to stroll through but his left-foot shot was deflected for a corner.

Portsmouth threatened from the set-piece, but Rafferty did well to take the ball from Bondz N’Gala.

Barmby won a second Pools corner in the final minute of the half but the Pompey defence cleared.

Cooper made a change at the start of the second period, bringing on Lewis Hawkins for Compton on the right of midfield.

Pools immediately looked a different side.

Good play by Michael Duckworth, Poole and Hawkins released Luke James in the box and his low cross from the right was scrambled away by Pompey with Sam Collins, of all people, lurking in the home six-yard area.

Pools were certainly a level above their first half display and brilliant interplay down the left by Holden and Barmby led to N’Gala conceding a 57th-minute corner, but Pompey cleared.

The entire crowd seemed to be chanting “Andy Awford’s blue and wite army” but Pools were enjoying their best spell of the game.

And they threatened again when Barmby did well down the left and played in a good cross which just eluded James.

Pools made a second change in the 65th minute, bringing on Jonathan Franks for Barmby.

Pompey withdrew skipper Simon Ferry in the 68th minute, Rhys McCabe coming on in midfield, Nicky Shorey taking the captain’s armband.

Portsmouth went close when Wallace evaded Collins and Walton to streak up the left side. He tried his luck from a narrow angle, only for Rafferty to make the stop and concede a corner, which Franks cleared.

There were chants of “you’re going home in a Pompey ambulance” directed at Burgess who fell injured behind Rafferty’s goal but then rolled back onto the field.

After lengthy treatment, he hobbled off to be replaced by on-loan Sunderland defender Scott Harrison.

Pompey were starting to build up a head of steam again but Rafferty dealt well with two balls into the away box.

Six minutes from time, Poole turned superbly from N’Gala but his cross went behind James.

There were gasps from the crowd when the fourth official held up six on the additional minutes board.

James won a free-kick and Pools also had an attacking throw but Pompey would not buckle.

Pools had a corner four minutes into added time but Franks delivery was poor and Carson caught it easily.

Holden won a corner six and a half minutes in but no-one could get on the end of Walton’s flag-kick.

POOLS: Rafferty, Duckworth, Burgess (Harrison 78), Collins, Holden, Barmby (Franks 65), Walker, Walton, Compton (Hawkins 46), Poole, James.

Subs: Rowbotham, Richards, Jones, Harrison, Oliver, Hawkins, Franks

PORTSMOUTH: Carson, Webster, N’Gala, Whatmaugh, Shorey, Fogden (Ertl 86), Ferry MCCabe 68), Hollands, Wallace, Holmes (Drennan 90), Taylor,

Referee: Andy D’Urso

Att: 15,273 (Pools 187)