The away end at Prenton Park was full of clowns today as Hartlepool fans arrived in fancy dress, but a laughable first half penalty once again suggested the only jokers in this division are the officials.
Rovers put out a strong team again following the weak line-up fielded against Solihull on Tuesday, on an afternoon when maintaining match sharpness and avoiding injury was the order of the day.
The home side created the slightly better chances in the opening half hour, James Norwood and Andy Cook both missing golden opportunities to open the scoring.
It was Cook that would be penalised by the referee for a “challenge” in his own box which led to the opening goal though. A corner from the left was half cleared, and as a Hartlepool forward shielded the ball with his back to goal, Cook was adjudged to have pushed him over.
Scott Davies got a firm hand to the spot-kick, but it crept inside the post and the visitors led.
The only other thing of note in the first period was a collective groan as Olly Norburn was caught with a nasty late challenge. As the replays will show, it was a red card offense – the ref just about gave Rovers the free-kick.
Thankfully, Norburn continued and completed the 90 minutes, but there was a grimace and Prenton Park any time anyone went in for a challenge. After last year’s injury luck, we don’t want anyone else side-lined for the play-offs.
There was previous little to get excited about second half, the visitors doubled their lead thanks to a comedy of errors in the Rovers box – I genuinely have no idea who the ball hit last as it trickled in to the net and Rovers players lay strewn everywhere.
As with the Solihull game on Tuesday, Rovers did get themselves back in it. Norwood was brought down just to the right of the box, and Jeff Hughes curled home a stunning free-kick to make it 1-2.
Very little else happened, and Hartlepool ended the season with a big win, and what will possibly be seen as the start of a new era. After avoiding relegation and having a change in ownership, they’ll be hoping for a brighter start next season.
As for Tranmere, it’s all eyes on next Saturday.