Tranmere 0 Hartlepool Utd 1: Austin keeps Pools alive

Neil Austin turns away after scoring Hartlepool's winner at Tranmere. Picture by Frank Reid.
Neil Austin turns away after scoring Hartlepool's winner at Tranmere. Picture by Frank Reid.
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HARTLEPOOL United live to fight another day but they could be relegated by the time they return to League One action next weekend.

John Hughes’s men were 1-0 victors at Prenton Park thanks to Neil Austin’s first-half effort.

But a 1-0 win for Oldham Athletic at Bury means, should The Latics take maximum points at home to Yeovil Town on Tuesday night, then Pools would be demoted to the bottom tier.

The visitors were good value for their victory on The Wirral but had goalkeeper Scott Flinders to thank for an outrageous second-half penalty save.

Pools, with Luke James the heartbeat, got at their opponents from the off.

A fortuitous break presented Jon Franks with an early sight at goal but his 20-yard drive skipped wide of the home goal.

There was soon an opening at the other end and Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro swivelled 12 yards out, stealing a yard for a shot, before blazing over the crossbar.

Pools were awarded a spot-kick on 10 minutes when, from Franks’ high free-kick into the area, Peter Hartley was manhandled by Middlesbrough loanee Ben Gibson.

Simon Walton stepped up and, when his weak effort was palmed clear by Owain Fon-Williams, Austin steamed in to poke home the rebound.

James was causing the hosts all manner of problems and the teenager could have doubled the score on 38 minutes.

With Flinders having just seconds earlier brushed a low drill from Andy Robinson on to the post, Pools broke upfield and, when Andy Monkhouse sprung James clear, he scampered into the area before firing across the face of goal and wide.

The period expired with Pools still in front but within 10 minutes of the restart the hosts had a penalty.

Hartley tangled with Akpa Akpro and, with the forward accepting the invitation to topple to the turf, Lee Collins pointed to the spot for the second time.

Andy Robinson took on the responsibility and, despite a well-struck effort towards the corner, there was no route beyond Flinders, the keeper flinging his frame to divert onto the crossbar.

Pools, though, were living dangerously and twice Flinders had to be on hand to gather danger-zone deliveries while Monkhouse hacked another clear at the near post.

Substitute Cole Stockton then rolled away from two navy jerseys before hammering narrowly over from 18 yards.

But that was as close as they came as Pools held on to make it back-to-back wins with James earning a standing ovation from the home crowd when he departed late on.