HALF-TIME: Hartlepool Utd 0 Rochdale 0

Pools' Andy Monkhouse takes on Rochdale today. Picture by Frank Reid

Pools' Andy Monkhouse takes on Rochdale today. Picture by Frank Reid

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HARTLEPOOL United are drawing 0-0 with Rochdale at the half-way stage of their Sky Bet League Two encounter at Victoria Park.

The home side had the better chances to take the lead, with Jordan Richards clipping the post with a free-kick and James Poole forcing Josh Lillis into a smart save.

But neither side did enough to take the lead.

Pools boss Colin Cooper made two changes to his side with Jordan Richards, back from a double hernia operation, coming in at right-back for Michael Duckworth, who missed out with a groin injury, while Simon Walton came into central midfield for Matty Dolan, who has returned to parent club Middlesbrough FC after a four-month loan spell.

Ten-goal top scorer Luke James and James Poole again started up front against Rochdale, who beat Pools 3-0 on home soil in the opening fixture of the League Two campaign.

Jack Compton, meanwhile, returned from a spell out on the sidelines with a torn calf and started the match on the bench.

Pools went into the game in 15th place, seven points off the play-off spots, while Keith Hill’s Rochdale were sitting pretty in 5th place.

It was a quiet start from both sides, with Pools looking to make a better start than the last time they played at home, the New Year’s Day 3-0 defeat to Bury which saw the Shakers score twice in the opening 12 minutes.

It was 17-year-old Bradley Walker that had the first chance on goal, waltzing his way through the Dale defence only to see his weak shot from the edge of the area easily saved by Lillis.

Dale defender Jack O’Connell was then allowed the freedom of The Vic in the 12th minute, without a challenge in sight, to burst forward but his shot from distance bounced its way into the gloves of Scott Flinders.

Three minutes later and Pools hit the woodwork after Richards’ curling effort from a free-kick rebounded off the left-hand post - with Lillis beaten - but Christian Burgess was unable to score from the rebound and the ball was cleared.

James had been fouled for the free-kick after managing to wriggle his way through two defenders before eventually being tumbled over to give Richards the opportunity.

Peter Vincenti then tested Flinders, again from distance, but the big stopper was equal to it.

Burgess looked eager to make up for his earlier chance but his header from inside the box - after a Jonathan Franks free-kick in the 25th minute - was high over the Rink End stand.

James was then put through inside the Dale penalty area in the 27th minute after a clever through-ball from Poole but he was unable to get a proper connection as Lillis smothered the ball.

It was a tight opening first 45 minutes and it looked very much like whoever scored the first goal would go on to take all three points.

But Pools were struggling to get enough men forward despite some patient build-up play.

The best chance of the half came in the 40th minute, Poole acrobatically forcing Lillis into a smart save to turn the ball over the bar after an excellent cross from Andy Monkhouse found the Pools forward six yards out.

Walton then entered the referee’s book for a foul on Vincenti, while referee Rob Lewis also had words with the Pools bench as frustrations began to grow.

Sub George Donnelly had a fierce effort from distance but it dipped over the bar as the sides went into the break level.

HALF TIME: Pools 0 Rochdale 0

Hartlepool United (4-4-1-1): Flinders, Richards, Baldwin, Burgess, Austin (C), Franks, Walker, Walton, Monkhouse, Poole, James.

Subs Not Used: Rafferty, Collins, Compton, Sweeney, Holden, Rodney, Hawkins.

Booked: Walton.

Rochdale (4-4-3): Lillis, Bennett, Cavanagh (C), Lancashire, Vincenti, Hogan, Lund (Donnelly, 21), Done, O’Connell, Rose, Henderson.

Subs Not Used: Thomson, Rafferty, Eastham, Allen, Cummins, Bunney.

Referee: Rob Lewis (Shrewsbury).