Maidstone 1 Hartlepool 1: Pools kick off with a battling point on the road

A Liam Noble goal on debut ensured Hartlepool United kicked off their National League campaign with a point on the road.

Saturday, 4th August 2018, 4:56 pm
Updated Saturday, 4th August 2018, 4:58 pm
Liam Noble celebrates scoring Pools' equaliser.
Liam Noble celebrates scoring Pools' equaliser.

A Blair Turgott penalty opened the scoring before Noble struck a minute later to level things up on the opening day of the fifth tier.

Boss Matthew Bates went with an attacking looking line up, playing all three of his main, recognised strikers in the same team with Niko Muir and Luke James off Jake Cassidy.

Five players were handed their debut by Bates - Noble, Mark Kitching, Peter Kioso, Andrew Davies and Muir - but the biggest surprise was to see Ryan Donaldson, who has played as a striker at this level in the past, operating as a right wing back.

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Pools got off to a bright start with Noble seeing plenty of the ball and Muir a livewire up top.

Cassidy had a number of chances to open the scoring, with some clever movement and running in behind, but it was in fact the hosts, against the run of play, who robbed the first goal of the game.

An aimless centre into the area looked set to clear everyone but Ollie Muldoon got his head to the ball ahead of Muir's boot and despite the Maidstone man's head being low, the referee called a penalty.

Turgott made no mistake from the spot, sending Scott Loach the wrong way.

The lead was undeserved but it was to last less than 60 seconds as a smart move down the right from James allowed the frontman to find Noble who stroked into the bottom corner from the edge of the area for 1-1 at the break.

The home side turned the screw into the second period as Cassidy had to be at his best to nod a header off the line at one end before Peter Kioso's volley was also hacked away when destined for the net at the other end.

With the game played at such a frantic pace for the first hour, and the temperature so high in Kent, the tempo dropped as drinks breaks became more of a feature and substitutions necessary.

While Noble and Nicky Featherstone continued to influence in the middle it was the hosts who began to crank up the pressure.

Seth Nana Twumasi brought the very best out of Loach late on when his powerful drive had to beaten away by last season's player of the season.

Despite having to weather a late storm, thanks in no small part to Carl Magnay's goal-saving challenge, there was to be no sting in the tail for Pools and they walked away from the venue they won at last season, with a point to show for their efforts.

Solid start. Plenty of positives. And most importantly a massive improvement on this time last season, when Pools kicked off with an opening day loss to Dover.