Swansea City took a huge step towards securing promotion to the Championship with a battling 3-1 win over a Hartlepool United side that could not find an answer to a resolute Swansea defense.
Striker Darryl Duffy and winger Thomas Butler returned to their former club as they both slotted straight into Roberto Martinez`s starting 11.There was no place in starting 11 for new loan signing Ashley Williams, who signed on transfer deadline day from league two promotion contenders Stockport County. In their customary 4-4-2 away formation Swansea City with the groin injury to Ferrie Bodde , Andy Robinson moved in from the flank into the heart of the midfield to partner Darren Pratley.
Pools manager Danny Wilson also rung the changes handing Striker James Brown a starting place for the injured Richard Barker. Michael Nelson and Matty Robson are also drafted into the starting 11 with former Cardiff City midfielder Willie Boland relegated to the bench.
Swansea City got off to a horrendous start with 27 seconds into the game as Gary Liddle capitalised on a Dennis Lawrence slip to fire past Dorus De Vries after the Dutchman saved Liddle`s initial shot. Hartlepool threaded to go 2-0 up after Andy Robinson was found wanting and dispossessed by James Brown but the striker could not take advantage and drilled his shot wide of De Vries`s goal.
Swansea weathered the Hartlepool storm and pressed for a leveller and got their reward on 23 minutes when defender Angel Rangel won a free kick after a challenge by Matty Robson.
Thomas Butler launched the ball into the Hartlepool box and found Darryl Duffy who saw his shot was well saved by Arran Lee Barrett in for Danish keeper Jan Budtz.; his save was to be in vain after Darren Pratley picked the ball up in the area to slot past the former Coventry City keeper.
Spaniard Angel Rangel found himself in Lee Probert`s book after a foul on Matty Robson. Probert became the centre of controversy just before half time as Ben Clark was adjudged to have felled Jason Scotland despite the fierce protestations that the defender had got the ball. Scotland made no mistake from the spot to fire in his 29th goal of the season. The League leaders went into the break with a 2-1 lead with boos reverberating around Victoria Park.
Hartlepool came out of the traps with purpose and forced a succession of corners to trouble De Vries in the Swansea goal. Michael Nelson latched onto a Robson cross to head towards the Dutch shot stopper by the former Den Hagg keeper tipped the ball over the bar for a corner.
Danny Wilson made a change on 26 minutes bringing off the highly influential James Brown for Striker Michael Mackay.
Hartlepool had the chance to get back on level terms after Darren Pratley fouled Joel Porter on the edge of the Swansea penalty area, and was booked for his troubles. In the resulting free kick by Antony Sweeney could not take advantage of the dangerous position.
Swansea needing to gain a foothold in the game brought on Owain Tudur Jones fresh from earning his first cap against Luxembourg midweek, for Thomas Butler.
Against the run of play the Liberty Stadium outfit snatched a third goal when Darren Prately sent Swansea 3-1 up to score his second of the game. Picking up the ball in the Swansea half the midfeilder launched a purposeful move into the Hartlepool half. Combining well with Darryl Duffy and Jason Scotland, Pratley bravely went into the box to get the vital last touch to put the ball past Lee-Barrett who needed medical treatment after clashing with the former Brentford player.
Hartlepool United could not find a way through the now resolute Swansea defense despite Andy Monkhouse’s 18 yard effort that did not look set to trouble De Vries.
Swansea City manager Martinez took any further sting out of the game bringing on Darren Way on for diminutive midfielder Leon Britton.
Swansea hung on for a hard fought 3-1 win and have gone 7 points clear at the top of the leauge one pile after Gillingham held second placed Carlisle United to a goalless draw at Prestfeild Stadium.