FOR all the confidence generated in the close season, Victoria Park isn't proving such a happy home for Hartlepool United yet this season.

In selling almost 6,000 season tickets, Pools rediscovered their feel-good factor.

But they have now lost three successive games in front of their own support, winning twice, compared to four victories on the road.

Last night they were beaten by Tranmere, the result coming on the back of a win at Chesterfield last weekend which indicated they were over a blip which blighted their majestic start to the season.

After a promising first-half they failed to find a breakthrough, went in at the break goalless and conceded a first goal only 22 seconds in.

From then on, it was a struggle to break down a compact and organised Tranmere side.

"First goal was crucial, second even more so,'' said a disappointed Mick Wadsworth. "First-half we played very well, good development of play, good chances, but we committed suicide seconds into the second half.

"We got the ball from their kick-off, then seconds later it was in our net. It was an uphill task. They set up tight and we couldn't break it down.

"Second-half and our ball movement and man movement was poor and unrecognisable.''

He added: "You have to stay in the game when you don't score. Both goals were awful again and, as well as we have done on Saturday we conceded two then and two again tonight.

"We have to work on it, we need leadership and we will get it - I'm sure but it's disappointing.

"I'll take the can for it. But there's a disappointing dressing room again and now we have to go and win on Saturday against Charlton which is like us to do it.''

Pools started with a diamond midfield shape and, with Nathan Luscombe at the tip of it, he went close to scoring after a minute.

He fizzed a shot in from 20 yards after being teed up by James Poole and only a firm hand from keeper Owain Fon-Williams kept it out.

But, until visiting skipper Robbie Weir flung himself at the ball to keep an Evan Horwood shot out following a goalmouth scramble in the final quarter, shots on target were all to rare for Wadsworth's side.

Luscombe was bright and busy in possession in the first-half, but there was a lack of a cutting edge ahead of him.

Rovers went close to taking the lead on 40 minutes. Lucas Akins surged past Stephen Wright and his clipped cross landed at the feet of McGurk.

The shot was heading for goal, until a last-ditch block by Neil Austin diverted the chance away for a corner.

But 22 seconds into the second-half, Rovers did egde ahead. A swift move down the right saw Dave Buchanan fed McGurk, whose shot was parred by Flinders but invitingly for Akins to tap in from close range.

Confidence boosted by the goal, Rovers started to control, pick up too many loose balls and move the ball around with some poise.

It should have been two when Jose Baxter headed down at the far post and Robbie Weir prodded over from six yards.

Wadsworth made a double change to try and gain some attacking joy. Off went Paul Murray and Wright, and on went James Brown and Adam Boyd.

But it made little impact on a strong visiting rearguard, Wadsworth later admitted an error in replacing Murray, and Rovers grabbed a second on 66 minutes. A long throw from the left was met at the near post by the Akins who turned in from close range to make it three wins from three for the visitors who moved above Pools into sixth spot in the table.

"We have to play with intelligence and I left certain players on because I expected their guile and craft to come through and it didn't,'' admitted Wadsworth.

"I thought we could manage, get some width on and develop and we didn't do that. It was a pitiful effort in the second half and I feel sorry for the fans for that.

"We have to get back to consistency in performance and we haven't quite hit the right blend.

"We get ourselves in a good position and we make a right cow's arse of it. We have come too far to make a mess of it, but we've lost again. There's hiccups along the way - this is more of a choking cough.

"I'll take the can for it. But there's a disappointing dressing room again and now we have to go and win on Saturday against Charlton which is like us to do it."