TEN-MAN Town covered themselves in glory to seal a terrific away victory and almost certain security in League I.

Roared on by more than 700 travelling fans, Andy Booth nodded his eighth goal of the campaign on 42 minutes to reward a battling performance of truly heroic proportions.

Mentioned in dispatches were Paul Rachubka, David Mirfin, Andrew Holdsworth and Booth himself.

If medals were to be handed out, however, then Tom Clarke would be at the front of the queue.

Moved to centre-back in a perfectly-judged tactical return to 5-3-2 by manager Peter Jackson, the 17-year-old was at the very heart of Town's magnificent resistance.

Promotion-chasing Hartlepool found him sliding into tremendous tackles, making brilliant clearing headers and, before a hip injury put an end to his best senior performance so far, looking completely assured with the ball at his feet.

Young Clarke's display typified the spirit of his colleagues' teamwork and, when it seemed they were being stretched beyond the limit with Nathan's dismissal 23 minutes from time for a second yellow card, Town dug even deeper into their reserves of resolve.

Neale Cooper's side, understandably, cranked up the pressure towards the end, but Rachubka was in no mood to let slip Town's first clean sheet on the road in over four months.

Town had some luck - the woodwork denying Darren Craddock and Chris Westwood with the defiant defence under the cosh - but they certainly earned it.

And when impressive Michael Nelson seemed certain to score with first head and then boot on 70 and 89 minutes, Rachubka produced one-handed saves of the very highest quality to frustrate the home contingent in a crowd of 6,205.

Hartlepool punted the ball forward quickly at every given opportunity, but with Jackson employing the same tactics which earned Town's last away success at Swindon on December 8, they found cover was plentiful and determined.

There were early shooting chances for Antony Sweeney, Joel Porter and Matty Robson, but once those had been wasted it was Town who suggested the bigger threat, with Chris Brandon breaking well from deep to complement the hard graft of Jon Worthington and Adnan Ahmed .

The offside flag caught them a few times and, on others, the final shot let them down, but wing-backs Andrew Holdsworth and Rob Edwards joined in well while Booth and Abbott were continually finding encouraging pockets of space.

After Rachubka had saved well from Sweeney on the break - Mirfin making the final clearance - Town's strikeforce finally put that space to good use.

The goal came from a misdirected shot by Abbott which dipped across the box rather than threatening the goal, but Booth made no mistake with the header to draw alongside the prolific Les Massie on 108 career goals for the club.

It spurred Town into a bright start to the second half, with Nathan Clarke matching his first-half header across goal from a set-piece, but when he was sent from the field with 67 minutes gone it seemed that elusive away victory might be snatched away yet again.

Not so.

Rachubka was magnificent, Holdsworth, Mirfin and substitute Nat Brown threw themselves at everything which was launched into the box and Booth did a tremendous marking job on Nelson, who was shunted forward in an effort to rescue much-needed play-off points for the hosts.

It meant Hartlepool had to give way to Town's never-say-die battling quality which was acknowledged at the final whistle with a rapturous reception from their delighted bank of support behind the goal.

How they rated:

Paul Rachubka Two brilliant saves in the second half ensured a first away clean sheet in four months and capped a super display Rating: 8/10

Andy Holdsworth Made two clearances from near the line and had a tremendous game. His work going forward also caught the eye. Rating: 8/10

Rob Edwards Typically gritty at left wing-back. Made some top-class blocks and also pushed forward with purpose at times Rating: 7/10

Nathan Clarke Made a couple of very uncharacteristic early mistakes before doing well. His sending-off seemed very harsh Rating: 6/10

David Mirfin Very solid performance against a lively front line and got the ball away to safety as quickly as possible. Terrific show Rating: 8/10

Tom Clarke Immense as one of three centre-backs. He hardly put a foot wrong and made some great challenges in the box Rating: 9/10

Chris Brandon His quick running from midfield troubled the home side throughout and he worked really hard to help defend Rating: 8/10

Jon Worthington Broke forward well and might have got a goal on his return to the side. He also made some very timely clearing headers Rating: 7/10

Adnan Ahmed Got stuck in all around the pitch and was a tremendous help to the back line. Landed one shot on the stand roof! Rating: 7/10

Andy Booth Excellent performance and grabbed his eighth goal of the season. Did well at the back when switching late on Rating: 8/10

Pawel Abbott Set up Booth's goal with a miscued shot and did his share of graft. Sacrificed when Clarke was sent-off Rating: 7/10

Verdict on the ref: AFTER a poor display when he took charge of Town's defeat at Tranmere this was another sticky effort from Mike Pike of Cumbria. Unfortunately, he gave himself no leeway for using common sense by booking Matty Robson for a challenge on Andy Holdsworth in only the seventh minute.

Then, with 18 minutes on the clock, he booked Nathan Clarke for a similarly mistimed challenge on Craddock. Both deserved only a talking to and, in Clarke's case, it came back to haunt him when he was sent-off for a second yellow

Hartlepool United: Provett; Craddock, Westwood, Nelson, Robertson (Butler 59), Humphreys, Sweeney, Tinkler (Clark 66), Robson, Williams (Boyd 31), Porter. Subs not used: Strachan, Konstantopoulos.