Matthew Bates hailed the effort of his players after suffering his second defeat as Hartlepool United’s caretaker manager.

Improved Pools, cheered on by club president Jeff Stelling who is trying to save the club with a consortium involving former Darlington chairman Raj Singh, gave it their all at promotion-chasing Aldershot only to lose out to Manny Oyeleke’s 60th-minute winner at the Ebb Stadium.

Pools trailed to a 13th-minute goal from close range by home skipper Scott Rendell, only to level with a delicious right-foot shot from substitute Blair Adams on the stroke of half-time.

However, Pools could not hold on for a point, with midfielder Oyeleke’s shot sneaking past Scott Loach low effort from the edge of the box.

“I couldn’t fault the application of the lads,” said Bates. “We were up against a team who I rate as the best in the league and I’m not just saying that.

“I think we deserved a point. We more than matched them, the players really out in a shift, and you could see that by the reaction of our fans.

“That was the first time in a long time we’ve been applauded off after a defeat.

“The supporters want to see effort, tackles, determination and work-rate.

“If we keep doing that, raise our standards again then we’ll win more than we lose.”

The loss left Pools three points above the National League drop zone though Bates felt his side could have come away with a point.

Bates was frustrated that Pools were denied what seemed a stonewall penalty after Aldershot defender Will Evans blocked Conor Newton’s drive, just minutes before Oyeleke’s winner.

“That was a shocking decision in my opinion,” said Bates. “Everyone in the ground has seen it, even the fourth official, but the referee hasn’t seen it.”

Bates made three changes to his side, bringing back the fit-again Liam Donnelly into the centre of a re-shaped defence and starting with Lewis Hawkins and Conor Newton in a four-man midfield.

To say Pools made a sluggish start would be an under-statement and they were made to pay for some slipshod defending in the 13th minute.

Shamir Fenelon got behind the away defence on the right and slid a great low ball into the six-yard box

It should have been food and drink for Loach but the keeper stayed on his line, leaving Rendell the easiest of tasks to tap the ball in at the far post from three yards.

Pools were not helped by having to make a re-shuffle at the back with right-back Luke George limping off, to be replaced by Adams.

The Shots stayed on top and Donnelly made a good block from an Adam McDonnell.

Pools did pick up their form though the shooting was awry with Carl Magnay and Rhys Oates finding the empty terrace behind the home goal and Newton slashing his effort wide after good work by the impressive Oates.

But there was nothing wrong with the accuracy of the right foot of Adams in the final minute of the half.

The defender strode forward down the left and got the ball onto his right-foot and curled an absolute beauty into Jake Cole’s top-left corner via the post.

Pools were denied what appeared to be a clear 56th-minute spot-kick when defender Evans saved Newton’s powerful volley with his hand after Oates’s driven cross.

Referee Christopher Pollard ruled no penalty despite furious Pools appeals.

And the mood darkened further four minutes later when the Shots regained the lead.

Oyeleke made space for himself on the edge of the box and his low shot squeezed past Loach and went in off the keeper’s right-hand upright.

That lifted the Aldershot tempo and sub Bobby-Joe Taylor shot wide after a slick passing move and hit the same advertising board after cutting in off the left.

Pools huffed and puffed with Michael Woods going high over the bar while Magnay saw an attempt with the last kick of the match trickle wide after Jake Cassidy got to an Adams cross.

Despite a seventh away National League defeat of the season there was certainly encouragement in the performance ahead of Saturday’s visit of another promotion-chasing outfit, Boreham Wood, to Victoria Park.