FULL-TIME REPORT: Pools 0 Walsall 0

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HARTLEPOOL United returned to the bottom of League One as their barren run in front of goal was extended to six matches following this afternoon’s stalemate with Walsall.

The goalless draw - played out at a wind-swept Victoria Park - leaves Pools six points from safety with just six games remaining with the home support making their dissatisfaction known on full-time.

John Hughes’ men had failed to trouble the visiting goal during the entire second half despite having dominated the opening 45 minutes.

Pools did begin the match on the back foot, however, and when Andy Taylor’s lofted flag-kick caught the wind, Scott Flinders was forced to fist clear of his near post with the ball having been swept towards the target.

Pools striker Steve Howard was presented with a sight at goal on 12 minutes when Jon Franks forced his way into the area but he failed to make a clean connection and the effort was blocked.

Franks then dug out a cross from the left flank which Taylor, under pressure from Tony Sweeney, was forced to hook behind at the far post, escaping the embarrassment of an own goal by a matter of inches.

From the resulting corner the ball eventually dropped for Simon Walton and his instinctive volley flashed narrowly wide.

It was all Pools and Howard was denied by goalkeeper Sam Johnstone when he out-jumped Paul Downing to turn Evan Horwood’s centre on goal from six yards.

Following a similar build-up down the opposite flank it was right-back Neil Austin who served a cross for Sweeney and his firm nod was gloved clear of the bottom corner by Johnstone.

The visitors did find the target on 36 minutes when Martin Patterson took aim from 20 yards and Flinders had to be on his guard to save amid the gales.

The half drew to a goalless conclusion and Pools were unable to match their previous endeavour when the action resumed.

It was Walsall who twice came close to breaking the deadlock as both Ashley Hemmings and Patterson found space inside the area only to fire over the crossbar.

But that was the nearest either side came as the home boos rang out following a drab second half.