HARTLEPOOL United’s five-match unbeaten run came to an abrupt end thanks to a bitterly disappointing 3-0 home defeat to Bury on New Year’s Day.
Goals from Danny Mayor, Daniel Nardiello and Richard Hinds proved too much for Colin Cooper’s side and in truth it was a comfortable away win for Bury in the end at Victoria Park.
Pools were off the pace for large periods of the game in a disappointing display to bring to an end the festive period.
Veteran winger Andy Monkhouse came into the starting line-up in place of Nialle Rodney, who dropped to the bench.
Jack Compton again missed out with a tear to his calf, while Jordan Richards is still out after a double hernia operation.
Bury named former Pools players Tommy Miller and Daniel Nardiello in their starting 11.
Pools started the day in 13th spot in League Two, six points from the play-off positions, while Bury under new manager David Flitcroft are 20th, two points above the drop.
Cooper’s side, who started the game shooting towards the Town End, had the first attempt on goal.
Midfielder Bradley Walker, 17, saw his poked effort from three yards out cleared off the line by Frederic Veseli, following a Jonathan Franks corner.
But Bury hit back quickly to take the lead in the 5th minute.
Danny Mayor fired a speculative low right-footed shot from 25-yards out which seemed to catch Scott Flinders off guard as it bounced off his hand and into the roof of the net.
It got worse for Pools seven minutes later when Nardiello broke free to curl the ball past the advancing Flinders and into the net to give Bury a 2-0 lead.
Pools were left reeling after going two down within the opening 12 minutes.
It was almost three two minutes later but Miller’s curling free-kick from the edge of the D was punched away by Flinders. Jack Baldwin was booked for the foul that led to the free-kick.
Pools were really struggling to get into the game against an impressive Bury side who beat Cooper’s side 1-0 at Gigg Lane the last time the sides met, at the end of November.
Bury’s goalkeeper Brian Jensen was called into action in the 36th minute, denying Baldwin’s shot from near the penalty area with a flying save following a dangerous Matty Dolan corner.
Jensen then found himself back-peddling furiously towards his net to tip a deflected Poole shot from 25-yards over the bar in the 42nd minute as Pools began, finally, to build some pressure on the Bury goal.
Bury’s persistent fouler Chris Sedgwick was eventually booked minutes before the break, which saw the away side go in to the dressing rooms leading 2-0.
HALF TIME: Pools 0 Bury 2
Pools had two good chances to pull a goal back within five minutes of the re-start, first James Poole’s header was just deflected wide following another dangerous corner from Dolan.
Then minutes later Poole found himself in space on the edge of the area but he shot wide of Jensen’s post.
Bury then almost went into a 3-0 lead after Mayor jinked his way into the penalty area but his right-footed short clipped the edge of the post with Flinders stranded.
Dolan then chanced his arms from 20 yards but his fiercely-struck shot was easily saved in the end by Jensen who got his full body behind it.
Flitcroft moved first from the touchline, bringing on Craig Jones in place of goalscorer Nardiello, who had scored against his former club for the second successive match.
Pools continued to push forward but Luke James was unable to take advantaged of Jensen being stranded when the ball fell to him just outside the area.
He controlled the ball on his chest but his volley was deflected wide for a corner.
Poole was proving the bright spark for Cooper’s team, always looking to get on the attack but his team mates around him were having an off day.
Right-back Neil Austin then found himself with room to cross from the left flank in the 69th minute but the ball managed to evade Monkhouse, James and Poole in the box, which rather summed up Pools’ day.
Shaun Harrad then entered the action for Bury, replacing forward Anton Forrester with 19 minutes left to play.
Dolan was then booked in the 74th minute for a late foul on substitute Jones as Pools began to lose their discipline, Burgess also booked a minute later for handling the ball.
From the resulting Sedgwick free-kick, the ball eventually fell to Richard Hinds, who calmly side-footed the ball into the corner of Flinders’ net to make it 3-0.
The game was over with 15 minutes left to play.
But Cooper made a triple substitution.
Darren Holden, Antony Sweeney and Nialle Rodney all coming on in place of Poole, Austin and Monkhouse in the 78th minute.
Sweeney broke free inside the penalty area in the 84th minute after a defence-splitting pass from Walker but Jensen was quick to spread himself.
Walker then tried his luck from distance but the volley was straight into Jensen’s gloves, while Burgess had a shot deflected wide and Rodney headed back across goal when he should have hit the target.
Despite a late flurry of chances it was a comfortable win for Bury as Pools’ play-off push came to a shuddering halt.
FULL TIME: Pools 0 Bury 3
Bury (4-4-2): Jensen, Hinds, Cameron, Procter, Miller, Forrester (Harrad, 71), Sedgwick, Mayor (Walker, 89), Nardiello (Jones, 62), Burke, Vesli.
Subs Not Used: Roberts, Grimes, Holden, Charles-Cook.
Booked: Cameron, Sedgwick.
Hartlepool United (4-4-1-1): Flinders, Austin (C) (Holden, 78), Duckworth, Baldwin, Burgess, Dolan, Walker, Franks, Monkhouse (Rodney, 78), Poole (Sweeney, 78), James.
Subs Not Used: Rafferty, Collins, Walton, Hawkins.
Booked: Baldwin, Dolan, Burgess.
Referee: Andy Haines (Tyne & Wear)
Attendance: 3,529 (Bury 228)