THE Sunderland old-boys network is paying dividends at Hartlepool United.

Twenty miles or so down the A19 from the Stadium of Light, an extension of Wearside is forming at Victoria Park.

Black Cats' old boy Martin Scott is pulling strings off the pitch and now Pool have two former Sunderland prodigies making an equally big impression on it.

Ben Clark moved to Pool in October, Thomas Butler last week and the pair were part of a fine Pool performance as Swindon were comfortably dispatched at Victoria Park.

Clark's steadying influence in the middle of midfield and Butler's trickery out wide were major factors in Pool's first Saturday home win since Bristol City were beaten on January 22.

Clark didn't hesitate when asked to give reference Butler a reference and the Republic of Ireland international gives Pool something they don't have - a geniune, out and out winger.

Ritchie Humphreys has long patrolled the left wing, but he can play left, right or centre, while Darrell Clarke and Eifion Williams both have preferred roles other than the right wing.

Butler can play left or right, but the right footer looks more at home on the left, as he proved to devastating affect 20 minutes or so into this win when he swapped flanks with Humphreys.

And while Darlington go some way to creating a mini-Middlesbrough on the A66 with 11 ex-Boro players at the Williamson Motors Stadium, Pool - with two other Sunderland fans in the squad in Mark Tinkler and Matty Robson and with Joel Porter having had a trial there before signing for Pool and Jim Provett released by the Wearsiders as a schoolboy - are busy manufacturing their own version.

Clark has played the midfield holding role to good effect in the last two games, after being rested by Neale Cooper and admitted: "I've played in midfield the last couple of games and I don't mind where I play, as long as I'm in the team.

"At centre-half we got have probably the best pairing in the league, so it's hard to get in there.

"I love it in the middle, I've got Sweens (Antony Sweeney) in there who will run all day as well as Tommy Butler and he will take the ball all day, whether he's got a man on him or not.

"He's had a long wait to play games of late, so he's determined to go out and prove a point.

"I played with him for a long time at Sunderland. Right from day one Martin Scott was asking me about him and I know he's a quality player.

"He's got great skill and is good to watch when he's running at defenders. I think the crowd have taken to him quickly, they gave him a good reception.

"But they did the same to me when I first came here and it's nice for a new player when that happens.

"But people don't mind coming to games to watch someone like Tommy Butler on the ball.''

Butler arrived at Pool from Sunderland via Dunfermline and, after an unhappy ending to his time on Wearside, he is making the most of his return to the North-East, scoring his first career goal.

His curling 51st minute strike came after some fine play from the outstanding Porter.

The Aussie, who opened the scoring, was tight on the goalline just outside the penalty area when he was dragged back by Sean O'Hanlon.

With the assistant referee furiously flagging for a foul, referee Martin Atkinson played the advantage in Pool's favour and, with Swindon awaiting the whistle, Porter beat another and cut the ball back just out of Sweeney's reach, but right into Butler's path and he curled a deft shot around keeper Rhys Evans.

Perhaps Porter had taken creative inspiration from Adam Boyd, after his strike partner set up the opener with a touch of class every bit as lifting as Porter's.

Matty Robson's free-kick was played into Boyd's feet on the edge of the area. Defender Jerel Ifill was tightly marking from behind, but Boyd sent the hapless Ifill for a pie, cut inside the penalty area and passed for Porter.

One touch for control, two for glory and Porter lifted the ball over Evans from seven yards.

"The result and performance was exactly what we needed,'' added Clark. "We spoke a lot about workrate before the game and I think it showed.

"If we can keep a clean sheet we have the players up front who can score goals and cause plenty of problems.

"Even I was racing about to the far end of the pitch closing the keeper down - I think it took me a while to get my breath back after that one!

"But, like I say, that was part of our gameplan. There's a lot of quality players at this club who can't get in the team right now, I've had a few games out of the side lately and it's not nice.

"All you want to do as a footballer is play games. The gaffer told me I wasn't playing against Bradford and he told me the reasons - I could see his point of view, but you don't necessarily agree with it or like it at the time because you only want to play.

"But I think a couple of games out has given me a bit to a rest and I've come back into the team and gave a couple of good performances.''

That Pool went in front was thanks to a fine one-handed stop by Provett from Christian Roberts.

After Darren Craddock misjudged a long ball on the halfway line, Roberts and Sammy Igoe homed in on goal with Humphreys as last defender.

Roberts tried to shoot across the keeper, but Provett stood firm and got a strong hand across the path of the ball to push it away.

The last time Provett came up one-on-one with Roberts was in the 90th minute of last season's play-off semi-final.

But Roberts appeared to be half the player he was - or should that be twice the player given the size of his waistline - in a Bristol City shirt and spent Saturday looking largely uninterested.

Provett's other moment of glory came on the hour mark. Smith's free-kick was destined for the top corner before the keeper pushed it out of the top corner.

It was a carbon copy of Blackpool keeper Lee Jones somehow getting to Hugh Robertson's set-piece at Bloomfield Road seven days ago.

Sammy Igoe then thumped the bar from distance before Pool's third arrived.

Boyd sprayed a crossfield ball for Porter, who laid it off for Humphreys to arc the ball across Evans into the corner for a deserved third of the season.

Jon Daly and Sweeney both missed good chances from inside the six yard box, both clearing the bar with the goal gaping.

Swindon's main threat was supposed to come from Sam Parkin. With 22 goals to his name this season, the striker is lauded by many.

He is, according to a recent survey, the 25th best player outside the Premiership.

On Saturday, Little Ant and Dec gave a more plausible impression of Jeremy Paxman in grilling Tony Blair than Parkin did of being the 11th best striker beyond the top flight.

That neither Boyd, Porter or any other Pool player made the top 50 says everything you need to know about the authenticity of the survey.

And if Parkin makes next year's poll perhaps FourFourTwo magazine would like to look inside Micky Nelson's back pocket for the striker.

Result: Hartlepool United 3 Swindon Town 0.

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