HALF-TIME MATCH REPORT: Hartlepool United v Portsmouth

Colin Cooper gathers his thoughts at the final whistle.

Colin Cooper gathers his thoughts at the final whistle.

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HARTLEPOOL United and Portsmouth are drawing 0-0 at half-time in the Sky Bet League Two match at Victoria Park.

Pools are looking for their fifth successive home win in the league but have been restricted to a few half-chances by Pompey, who themselves have forced Scott Flinders into making two smart saves.

Andy Monkhouse returned to the Pools line-up as manager Colin Cooper made just one change, with Monkhouse coming into the team after serving his one-match suspension, and winger Jonathan Franks dropping to the bench.

Luke James, with 10 goals to his name already this season, started up front with support from James Poole.

Pools started the day in 13th place, six points off the play-off positions, with Pompey - backed by hundreds of vocal fans in the Rink End - down in 18th.

It was the home side, who had started slowly in the last few games, that had the better of the opening period with James Poole testing Trevor Carson in the 2nd minute with a powerful shot but the keeper was equal to it.

James was then put free down the left-hand flank and he crossed low towards the onrushing Jack Compton but the Pompey defence managed to clear their lines before he could connect.

Stand-in captain Neil Austin was left for dust by Pompey winger Andy Barcham in the seventh minute but his cross was expertly headed away by the diving head of Jack Baldwin.

The best chance of the game came in the 15th minute, Portsmouth’s Jed Wallace with a crisp left-foot shot that was tipped onto the left post by an outstretched Scott Flinders, making his 200th appearance for the club.

The ball spun back across the goal but was eventually dealt with by the defence.

Poole, who has been in impressive form in recent weeks, was again proving a thorn in the opposition defence and his mesmerising run in the 25th minute bought a foul 15 yards out, Compton’s free-kick sailing over the bar.

But it was Flinders who was again forced into making a save in the 27th minute.

Pompey forward Ryan Bird wriggled free from Baldwin just inside the penalty area and fired a shot towards the near post but Pools’ stopper was on hand to block with his hands.

The game settled down after a bright start but it was the away side who had created the clearer goalscoring chances.

Then, with five minutes to go before the half-time whistle, Monkhouse drove a 15-yard shot towards the Pompey goal but it was deflected narrowly past the post for a corner.

From the resulting set piece Simon Walton found himself free inside the area but his low effort through the crowd found the gloves of Carson.

Jed Wallace appealed for a penalty with moments to play but it was a well-timed sliding tackle from Walton, to put the ball out for a corner.

Half Time: Pools 0 Portsmouth 0

Hartlepool United (4-4-1-1): Flinders; Duckworth; Austin (C); Burgess; Baldwin; Walton; Compton, Dolan; Monkhouse; Poole; James.

Subs: Rafferty; Collins; Franks; Sweeney; Richards; Rodney; Walker.

Portsmouth (4-4-1-1): Carson; Devera; Whatmough; Bradley; Potts; Wallace; Ertl; Cooper; Barcham; Holmes; Bird.

Subs: Sullivan; N’Gala; East; Padovani; Connolly; Painter; Maloney.

Referee: Paul Tierney (Halifax)