Hartlepool 2 Wycombe 0.

A DARRYL Duffy double consigned Wanderers to their fifth defeat of the season.

The on-loan Hull City striker killed Wanderers off with two splendid finishes as Blues dropped out of the automatic places for the first time this month.

Boss Paul Lambert said: "It just never happened for us. We did not get going and when we did get it together and put them under pressure it was too little too late."

Duffy's double was worthy of winning any game but Wanderers lacked their usual cohesion and fluency.

It was an unhappy return to the North East for Blues' leading scorer Jermaine Easter as he was starved of chances. He was booed every time he touched the ball along with former Poolie Kevin Betsy.

And it was a day that they and the rest of the Wanderers will want to forget in a hurry as they were blown off course by a stiff North Sea wind and an in-form striker.

Duffy was helped by some less than clever defending as he opened the scoring on 24 minutes latching onto Michael Nelson's long pass and brilliantly lifting the ball over defender Sam Stockley and keeper Ricardo Batista in one movement before controlling the ball and tucking it into the back of the net from 12 yards.

It could have been worse just two minutes later as keeper Batista had to dive full length to push out Ritchie Humphreys' thumping right foot volley.

Wanderers were in trouble again just 60 seconds later but Mike Williamson's brilliantly-timed interception saved the day as Wycombe were carved open again.

At the other end of the field, Matt Bloomfield's set-pieces were Wycombe's most potent weapon and twice they came close to producing equalisers.

Will Antwi's header from Bloomfield's left wing corner was headed off the line by Pool skipper Micky Barron and then six minutes before half time Tommy Mooney rose at the back post to head in another Bloomfield flag kick only to see it ruled out for a push on the defender.

Mooney was furious and his protestations brought him the first of three yellow cards which were dished out to Wycombe on an afternoon when seven players from both sides were booked.

Wanderers came out for the second half four minutes earlier than their hosts and Mooney was still arguing with the ref by the time he blew the whistle for the start of the second half.

Wycombe could not turn their anger into positive energy though and it was the hosts who should have doubled their advantage when John Daly headed a Humphreys corner over the bar.

Batista's goal survived that scare but there was nothing he could do about United's second on 59 minutes.

The referee waved play on after an x-rated Tommy Doherty foul in midfield and when the ball was crossed in from the right Duffy, who was policed by two Wanderers defenders, took the ball down without a challenge and drilled the ball under Batista.

That goal woke Wycombe up and they should have levelled inside a minute.

Doherty, who was booked for his rash tackle, showed his good side by threading a pass through to Williamson but the defender did not realise he had time and space on his side and screwed Blues' best chance of the game well wide.

Lambert rang the changes.

Doherty was replaced by Stefan Oakes as the Wanderers boss feared his midfield scrapper was in danger of collecting a red card. On loan Aston Villa defender Stephen O'Halloran was also withdrawn, replaced by Chris Palmer as the Blues switched to a more adventurous back three policy.

Palmer bombed forward from wide angles, Oakes provided some much needed composure and passing class and suddenly Wycombe sparked into gear and created chances from open play.

Bloomfield tested Pool's Greek glovesman Dimitrios Konstantopoulos from distance and from the resultant corner the keeper held onto Mooney's cheeky backheel from two yards out.

Wycombe continued to press and midfielder Anthony Grant was next up to force the home keeper into action with a long-range piledriver.

But at the other end it could have got even worse for Wycombe as Batista needed to be at his best to deny Pool substitute Anthony Sweeney.

Hartlepool: Konstantopoulos, Barron, Nelson, Clark, Humphreys, Eifion Williams (Sweeney 64), Boland, Liddle, Monkhouse, Daly (Bullock 75), Duffy (Foley 90).Not Used: Provett, Gibb.

Booked: Liddle, Barron, Monkhouse, Daly.

Goals: Duffy 24, 59.

Blues: Batista, Stockley, Antwi, Williamson, O'Halloran (Palmer 64), Betsy, Doherty (Oakes 64), Grant, Bloomfield, Easter (Stonebridge 80), Mooney. Not Used: Young, Martin.

Booked: Mooney, Doherty, Stockley.

Attendance: 3,711 (Wycombe 155) Ref: G Salisbury (Lancashire).

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