FULL-TIME: Scunthorpe United 1 Hartlepool United 2
A DEBUT goal from James Alabi couldn’t prevent Scunthorpe United from falling to a second successive defeat against fellow strugglers Hartlepool United.
A poor first half performance saw the Iron 2-0 down and with a mountain to climb at the break as first James Poole and then Jonathan Franks handed the visitors the advantage.
Alabi came off the bench midway through the second half and handed United a lifeline but they failed to take advantage and a three-match winning run at home came to a sorry end.
Manager Brian Laws made two changes from the side beaten at Yeovil, with Eddie Nolan making his first start for nine months having been without a club since his release from Scunthorpe last summer.
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He took the place of Callum Kennedy, who looks likely to spend the rest of the season on the sidelines after suffering a tear in his hamstring.
It meant Tom Newey returned to left-back, while a further reshuffle of the defence saw David Mirfin brought in for Paul Reid, who was ruled out with a virus. Michael Collins donned the captain’s armband in the latter’s absence.
There was also a place on the bench for new loan signing James Alabi from Stoke City as well as Christian Ribeiro, on his way back from a hamstring injury.
There was little to choose between the two sides early on, with chances for both at a premium.
United enjoyed the majority of possession but struggled to carve out any significant openings, while their visitors harried them at every opportunity.
Jimmy Ryan had what turned out to be Scunthorpe’s only real chance of the first half inside the first 10 minutes.
The midfielder fired a well-struck shot goalwards from outside the area, but Pools keeper Scott Flinders proved equal to his effort and dived to push the ball away.
Although they’d had the edge in the opening quarter of an hour, with 20 minutes gone the Iron found themselves a goal behind.
A cross from the right was nodded down by Ritchie Humphreys straight into the path of Poole, who made no mistake from inside the box.
It was poor defending on United’s part, with the Hartlepool striker allowed too much space to pick his spot and blast the ball into the bottom corner.
The breakthrough gave the visitors the boost they needed and they began to see more of the ball, putting Scunthorpe under pressure in the process.
All the hosts had to offer in response was a poor effort from Akpo Sodje, who skewed his shot high and wide from the right side of the area after being teed up by Karl Hawley.
Then, with eight minutes to go until the break, things got even worse for Laws’ side.
Large gaps at the back were again exposed as Franks was allowed to run unchallenged from the middle of the Scunthorpe half towards goal and beat Sam Slocombe with a fine finish for a great individual effort.
It left the Iron with much work to do as Pools finished the opening 45 minutes strongly, eager to add to their lead.
Although Laws brought Andy Barcham on to replace Josh Walker at the break, there was little change in the team’s performance.
Struggling to put a string of passes together and lacking invention and any sense of urgency, they couldn’t make any inroads on the opposition,.
Instead, it was Hartlepool again who looked the brighter side, with Poole rattling the crossbar with an ambitious attempt.
With just over 20 minutes remaining, Alabi was handed his Iron debut, replacing Sodje in an attempt to spark something up front.
And the Stoke teenager made an immediate impact, halving the deficit within 10 minutes of his appearance.
A cross from Mark Duffy on the left found the young striker and he powerfully headed home in the 77th minute.
It prompted a late flurry of action from the hosts as they desperately searched for an equaliser, but without making Flinders work, it proved to be much too little, much too late.
SCUNTHORPE: Slocombe; Nolan, Mirfin, Canavan, Newey; Duffy, Walker (Barcham 46), Collins, Ryan; Sodje (Alabi 67), Hawley. Subs not used: Severn, Ribeiro, Grella, Jennings, Godden.
HARTLEPOOL: Flinders; Austin, Collins, Hartley, Horwood; Baldwin, Walton, Humphreys; Franks (James 85), Wyke (Howard 61), Poole (Monkhouse 78). Subs not used: McHugh, Luscombe, Rutherford, Holden.
ATTENDANCE: 3,434 (359 away).