HARTLEPOOL United emerged with a point following a drab League One stalemate at Exeter City today, writes Craig Hope.
Chances were at a premium throughout a scrappy 90 minutes but both sides had late opportunities to nick three points.
Neale Cooper was forced into one change beforehand with Andy Monkhouse (illness) dropping down to the bench and James Brown coming in.
Pools started the brighter and Tony Sweeney stole from Scott Golbourne before driving into the area, but his cross was blocked at the near post by James Dunne with Luke James poised to connect on seven minutes.
Pools then survived a penalty scare when Daniel Nardiello wriggled free of Sam Collins inside the area before flinging himself to the turf, under pressure from Neil Austin.
But referee Mark Haywood was having none of it and motioned for a goal kick.
Exeter were beginning to find a foothold in the game as half-time beckoned and Troy Archibald-Henville should have broken the deadlock when he steamed on to David Noble’s corner but the defender glanced wide from six yards.
The Grecians fashioned the best chance of the opening period right on the stroke of half-time when Guillem Bauza teed up James Dunne but his 18-yard steer was held by Scott Flinders.
Pools were quickly out of the blocks after the break and James, nicking in front of Dunne to meet Brown’s low cross, was unlucky to see an improvised back-heel loop up and over the crossbar.
Brown was proving Pools’ chief threat and the forward went close on 55 minutes when he took aim from 25 yards, the effort rising narrowly above Artur Krusiak’s crossbar.
Teenager James was again causing problems for the opposition backline and it was from his attacking endeavour that Sweeney found himself one-on-one with Archibald-Henville on the edge of the area.
The Pools man nicked the ball by his minder but Krysiak read the midfielder’s intentions and scampered from his line to block the shot.
There was one last late chance for Archibald-Henville but he headed straight at Flinders from a Noble corner with two minutes remaining.