Hartlepool 2 Bristol Rovers 0

Hartlepool tightened their hold on the Third Division title race with another impressive performance.

They never hit their best form and hard-working Bristol Rovers made it difficult for them with a positive approach to the game and some excellent defending.

But only in short spells did the visitors look like breaking Pool's grip on the game, and when chances came their way they wasted them, striker Adrian Coote twice missing in front of a gaping goal after great work on the right by Paul Tait in the first half.

Hartlepool had gone close often enough themselves, too. Rovers keeper Scott Howie saved well from Mark Tinkler, and Marcus Richardson had a shot cleared off the line by Danny Boxall as the game swung from one end to the other.

But once Hartlepool took the lead after 40 minutes Rovers' virtually disappeared as an attacking force, the home team peppering their goal from all angles.

The opener came when Howie punched out a free-kick, and the ball landed perfectly for full-back Paul Arnison to loop in a 25-yard volley that went over the back-pedalling keeper and into the far corner.

The game was over as a contest after 63 minutes as wave after wave of home attacks pounded the Rovers defence.

Paul Smith's free-kick was headed towards goal by defender Graeme Lee, and Howie made a great finger-tip save, but as the ball ran loose, top scorer Eifion Williams bundled it into the empty net from close range with his knee.

Rovers boss Ray Graydon bemoaned the two chances his side missed in the first half.

"If we'd scored them, it might have been so different," he said.

"People will look at the score and say the game's gone to form. But if we had gone 2-0 up, that might not have been the case." Hartlepool manager Chris Turner added: "They made us work, and they did have those chances in the first half. But fortunately it ran our way and we were able to get the goals we needed."