AS far as entertainment goes this was up there with the worst of them, it was about as pleasing on the eye as Gail Tilsley or Mandy Dingle.

Yet for Mike Newell the performance meant so much, in fact it was his favourite display to date.

A single Darrell Clarke goal was enough to win at Boston and extend Hartlepool United's advantage at the top of the league to five points, but what pleased the boss was the manner in which his side won it.

There was none of the flowing football which he wants, no Pool dominance and hardly any clear chances - and Newell loved it, just loved it.

Because this showed him the other side of Hartlepool United, the one which can battle and grind out a result when needed.

And on a pitch which resembled a Sunday League surface in below zero conditions, Pool did exactly that.

Just like fine wines mature in time, sometimes victories are not appreciated until later in the season and Newell admitted this is one of them.

"That for me is the most pleasing performance since I took over,'' he admitted. "Boston make it difficult for teams and the pitch was very heavy, but we showed good character.

"We know we are a good side and come the end of the season we will look back at this and realise what it meant.

"This game was never going to be a good football match; it was about who wanted it more and our lads wanted it and showed their character.

"The lads have had a busy period and played on a heavy pitch, but they didn't show it. We lost at Hull on Boxing Day and we've shown tremendous strength of character to win three games in a row since.

"And on a pitch like Boston's they have put in a right shift. Now they can have a couple of days off.

"They played a couple days earlier as well and we've tried to rest them between games.

"They are a fit bunch and when you are playing all the time the fitness takes care of itself. What they showed at Boston was great desire to win a game.''

It shows how far things have come on at Victoria Park when three games without a win and whispers of crisis can be heard.

Pool are now on 53 points from 25 games. There's been plenty of seasons when they haven't achieved that tally in 46 games and there's plenty of teams who won't manage it this season either.

And now, nine points from nine later, who said Pool were heading for a new year fall?

"We lost two away games and drew at home - you cannot win every game between now and the end of the season,'' said Newell.

"I'd love to say we were going to go unbeaten, but we won't. It's not right to say it won't happen, but it's going to be difficult.''

Clarke has found it difficult this season, he's waited 24 games to get off the mark, then he nabs two in three games.

Saturday's came when Mark Robinson chipped the ball over the home defence with his right foot and as they pushed out en masse Clarke beat the offside trap and had enough time to turn and fire past Paul Bastock with his left foot

That was the cue for a race to the other end of the pitch to celebrate with the travelling fans.

"I'm so pleased for him, he deserves it,'' said Newell. "That's two in a week now and he took his goal brilliantly.

"Then I was worried about the rest of them using up energy to celebrate that they could have done with later on.''

Getting back on the goal trail is another way of reminding Newell of Clarke's reputation as a central midfielder who chips in with goals.

The problem for Clarke is that it's hard to see Tommy Widdrington and Mark Tinkler being displaced in the middle.

Widdrington is never more than five yards away from the action, keeping things simple, always looking for the easy ball and the obvious option.

It's no coincidence that Pool's maximum haul coincides with his return to the starting line-up.

And then there's Ritchie Humphreys, equally at home in the middle or on the wing and it's hard to see Paul Smith jumping straight back in when fit.

Marcus Richardson contrived to miss a great chance as the first-half came to a close.

Eifion Williams flicked into the path of Clarke and he pushed the ball across goal for the striker to net - but instead he lost his footing and when he did reach the ball could only screw it into the side netting.

There were few chances for Boston, the biggest coming in injury time when Anthony Williams spilled a cross and the ball was whacked against the post by Lee Thompson.

Result: Boston United 0 Hartlepool United 1.

Read more about Hartlepool here.