Hartlepool Utd 0 Sheffield Utd 1: Cooper in a fury at Blades’ penalty winner

HARTLEPOOL United boss Neale Cooper was left in a rage after a soft penalty award and a late red card cost his side a deserved return against Sheffield United.

Pools had more than matched their promotion-chasing visitors and it took a dubious spot-kick 11 minutes from time to separate the teams.

Home skipper Sam Collins tangled with Ched Evans inside the area but, despite minimal contact, referee Carl Boyeson, on the advice of his assistant, pointed to the spot.

And it was Evans who tucked home for the decisive goal.

Moments later Peter Hartley was shown a second yellow card having protested the soft award of a free-kick and he will now miss the Good Friday trip to Colchester United.

A furious Cooper was spoken to by Boyeson and the fourth official, the Scot evidently aggrieved following what had been a valiant display.

Pools competed well during the early exchanges but chances were at a premium at both ends of the park.

Evans was the first to fashion an opening for himself when he dropped a shoulder to escape the attention of Hartley on the edge of the area.

But the end product failed to match the approach and his shot spiralled high into the Town End.

Pools did eventually carve a chance of their own on the half-hour mark when Tony Sweeney nodded Neil Austin’s centre into the path of Andy Monkhouse, lurking at the far post.

The opening goal seemed an inevitability as Monkhouse wound up for the shot but somehow Matthew Hill got his body in the way to block and the ball was smuggled clear.

The half ended goalless with Pools having shaded the battle.

Again they started the second period with much promise and Gary Liddle, freed down the right by Luke James, showed the presence of mind to hook a low cross into the run of Monkhouse and his first-time effort was kept out by Steve Simonsen.

Ryan Noble hadn’t been afforded a sniff of goal during the opening hour but he did well to work room for a shot 20 yards out and was unlucky when a cute chip was flapped behind by Simonsen.

From the corner Hartley out-muscled Harry Maguire but his header was hacked from the six-yard area by Matt Hill.

But all Pools’ good work could have been undone when Flinders made a hash of an attempted clearance downfield, scuffing to the feet of substitute Michael O’Halloran.

He drove into the area and tried to dink over the forlorn keeper but got far too much weight behind his effort and the ball sailed over the crossbar.

The contentious penalty decision came 11 minutes from time and Evans made no mistake, sending Flinders the wrong way.

Hartley was then given his marching orders but there was still time for Sweeney to flash inches wide from six yards two minutes from the end when really the midfielder should have levelled.