HARTLEPOOL United boss Ronnie Moore is sweating on the fitness of centre-back David Mirfin for the relegation run-in after slamming his side’s defending as a “disgrace”.
Pools, who had Mirfin missing with a toe injury, were humbled 3-0 by Luton on Saturday.
It could have put a major dent in their survival hopes, but defeats for the bottom two – Tranmere Rovers and Cheltenham Town – incredibly sees Pools still hovering a point above the drop zone with two games to go.
But his defence has been rocked by the injury to on-loan Scunthorpe defender Mirfin, which led to Pools reverting to a flat-back four.
Moore was left fuming with the defensive collapse and said it was “unbelievable” how much Mirfin was missed.
“We hope Mirf isn’t long term, but it is badly bruised,” said Moore. “We were going to get an injection, but he didn’t think he could play even with an injection.
“It needs to settle down now but it will be Wednesday or Thursday before we know (whether he will be fit to play against Exeter on Saturday).”
In particular, Dan Jones and Scott Harrison struggled to cope with Luton’s direct attacking play and Pools found themselves 2-0 down in 15 minutes.
Cameron McGeehan nodded them in front after five minutes before Jake Howells made no mistake from the penalty spot.
Luton should have been out of sight before half-time before Scott Griffiths added a scruffy third after 71 minutes.
Moore was seething with his back four, with Neil Austin and Michael Duckworth also suffering a bad day at the office. “It was a disgrace, defensively,” said Moore.
“You wouldn’t think how important that game was and that was what disappointed me.
“Everytime Luton went forward they looked like they were going to score. They had two lads up front, not the biggest, but they made life difficult and that was a big worry for me.
“We looked very vulnerable and I said to them I hope Mirf is fit because we cannot defend like that. If we do, then we will lose the next two games.”
Moore added: “It was unbelievable how much we missed Mirf – I didn’t think we’d miss him that much. But Dan and Scotty are better players than they showed on Saturday. All three goals came from set plays and the third was straight from the ‘Dog and Duck’, to be allowed to turn and then get a shot in from there.
“Toe poked it in – that was so disappointing.”
Meanwhile, Tranmere yesterday axed boss Micky Adams in a desperate bid to spark a late escape. Rovers have put assistant boss Alan Rogers and academy manager Shaun Garnett in temporary control.
LUTON: Justham, Harriman, McNulty, Wilkinson, Griffiths, Whalley (Hall 75), Smith, McGeehan, Howells (Guttridge 82), Lee (Miller 87), Cullen. Subs not used: Lacey, Wall, Kinsella, King. Goals: McGeehan 5, Howells 15pen, Griffiths 71.
HARTLEPOOL: Flinders, Duckworth, D Jones, Harrison, Austin, Franks, Featherstone, Tshibola, Fenwick (J Jones 64), Hugill (Nelson-Addy 77), Harewood. Subs not used: Bates, Walker, Parnaby, Maxted, Richards. Booked: Austin, Featherstone
Att: 8,231. Ref: Gary Sutton (Lincolnshire)