A David Connolly header gave United all three points and their new manager the ideal platform to launch a promotion drive. After chairman Ian Lenagan earlier confirmed that a new manager will be in charge by Monday's trip to Southend, the U's gave caretaker boss Mickey Lewis the perfect parting gift with a vital win over one of the sides chasing the play-off spots.
Forced into changes through injury and suspension, the U's gave Sam Long a home debut at centre-half, brought Matt Bevans in as right-back and moved the ever-reliable David Hunt to left back . Further forward, David Connolly, James Constable and Sean Rigg came back into the starting line up while the return of Andy Whing in midfield added steel to the centre of the park. Whing reminded everyone what they have been missing by coming away with the ball in two first-half tackles that he had no right to win.
After exchanging wayward shots in the first ten minutes, the first presentable chance came Constable's way after 13 minutes as a step-over from Connolly and a low cross from Rigg gave United's top scorer a sight at goal from ten-yards out. Sadly, the ball evaded his sweeping boot and the chance went begging.
Pool's top scorer Luke James showed good technique but dragged his shot from similar distance wide of the mark on 15 before Connolly tested visiting keeper Scott Flinders with a low shot on 17 that the keeper was relieved to smuggle around his near post for a corner.
Ryan Williams had made one or two eye-catching bursts from the right but succumbed to a second knock to the same ankle after 37 minutes to be replaced by Alfie Potter.
A flicked header by Christian Burgess was tipped over by Ryan Clarke on 39 minutes as the visitors enjoyed a good spell just before the break that ended with Clarke needing to make one more save as Jack Barmby tried his luck from the edge of the box.
The opening minutes of the second half saw controversy as the Yellows pressed for that first goal. Rigg burst between two men on the left side of the box and was tripped as he prepared to shoot. Ref Davies took a long, hard look but waved away the appeals on what certainly looked a foul on first viewing.
Whing rampaged forward and fired a left-footed shot wide on 57, Ruffels tested Flinders fingers with a 70th-minute free kick that was well struck but straight at the keeper and United were the dominant side in the second period as Hartlepool sat back and looked to hit on the break. Their task go a lot harder on 75 as Simon Walton tripped Rigg once again and was shown his second yellow of the night. Having been down to eight men in the previous game, United now had the luxury of an extra body and started to exploit the extra space.
It didn't take them long to make it count. Hunt was the provider with a 77th-minute free kick. Connolly had cleverly found space and flicked his header with deadly accuracy just inside the left-hand post to make it 1-0 and give United a priceless three points with his fourth of the season.
It took some sealing though, with an 80th-minute block from Long typifying the commitment as he charged down a ferocious drive from the impressive Barmby inside the box. Constable should really have made it safe with a clear run at goal but the keeper saved his shot (Doh. Stupid Flinders) while Potter blasted a similar effort well over in the 90th minute.
It didn't matter. Connolly's header was enough and United deservedly picked up all three points to celebrate Mad Dog's Last Stand with a win earned in his style: hard work, determination and a pride in the yellow shirt.
Fifty/50 winning number 339272 wins £864.50
Report by Chris Williams, Pictures by Steve Daniels Stats by OPTA
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