Mark Donnelly's match analysis: Hartlepool United 2 Newport County 2

None of the 3,261 fans at the Northern Gas and Power Stadium on Saturday could complain they didn't get their monies worth.

Monday, 29th August 2016, 10:52 am
Nicky Featherstone scores for Hartlepool in the second minute.
Nicky Featherstone scores for Hartlepool in the second minute.

A frenzy of goals in the first half was followed by an end-to-end second period in what was a truly engaging encounter.

It was also yet another example of the ‘Never Say Die’ attitude Craig Hingett has instilled into his side as they battled back despite a numerical disadvantage.

But while Pools’ ability to come from behind is definitely pleasing, there is still a disappointment that they keep falling behind in games.

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There was just one change from the team that was beaten by Notts County last weekend – Jordan Richards replacing the injured Carl Magnay.

Hignett would have had a case for making some changes after his side surrendered the lead last weekend, but resisted the temptation.

The Pools boss again opted for a 4-4-2 formation allowing him to play with two up front as he chased that elusive first home victory.

And Hignett’s decision to stick with the same set-up looked to be paying off when his side took the lead after just two minutes.

Michael Woods provided the killer pass as he chipped the ball into the path of Nicky Featherstone who took it in his stride before firing home.

Delight was to turn to despair moments later though, when Toto Nsiala was given his marching orders.

Seven days previously he had bundled in his first goal for the side, but now he was heading for an early bath after handling on the edge of the box.

An instinctive reaction it perhaps was, and the Congolese defender certainly looked as if he knew the consequences of his actions as he headed down the tunnel.

For now a Pools side who had failed to keep a clean sheet in their opening five games would have to try and do so without one of their key centre backs.

There wouldn’t be long to wait for the hosts’ defence to be breached either, as Sean Rigg drilled home the resultant free-kick to level things up.

All of the above happened within the first four minutes – you’ll be hard pushed to find a game with such an action-packed opening.

At this point it would have been permissible for Hignett to withdraw a striker in place of a defender to shore things up.

But while the gathered media prepared their tweets proclaiming the entrance of Scott Harrison, the man in the dugout had other ideas.

Such is Hignett’s desire for his team to attack that he made no substitution, instead asking goalscorer Featherstone to slot-in at centre back while retaining Pools’ attacking edge.

He must have been hoping that the old cliché of teams being more dangerous when down to ten men would tell true, and for a while it looked as if it would.

Billy Paynter saw a guided header held by Joe Day before Lewis Alessandra squandered a golden chance when he swapped passes with Matthew Bates only to drill wide of the far post.

The significance this miss would be felt only four minutes later when a piece of individual brilliance saw Newport take the lead.

Former Poolie Jon Parkin was to be the source of inspiration as he controlled a lofted pass on his chest before turning and volleying home from 25 yards.

Credit here must go to the Pools faithful who, despite seeing their team behind, ramped up the volume and spurred them on.

And their efforts were reflected on the pitch as the hosts pushed forward.

Nathan Thomas was looking particularly lively, tormenting the Newport backline with his pace and skill.

A deserved equaliser was to come seven minutes before the break as Lewis Alessandra delivered a teasing corner which Padraig Amond nodded home having shrugged off the attentions of his marker.

The second half has a lot to live up to after the frenetic opening period and, while there were less chances, it was truly end-to-end.

Both sides felt they could snatch the three points but neither really tested the opposition’s goalkeeper.

Thomas had Pools’ best chance when he forced Joe Day to tip over his sweetly-struck effort from 30 yards.

The winger then went on a mazy run, taking on four Newport defenders, before being halted in his tracks – Richards curling the ensuing free-kick narrowly wide.

Newport’s best chance came in the dying minutes as goalscorer Rigg chested down a corner before stabbing over the crossbar from close range.

While a point could be considered a good result given the circumstances, there was an air of disappointment that Pools couldn’t grab all three.

For other than the two goals, Newport weren’t gifted much of a sight of goal. At times it was difficult to notice that United were a man lighter.

And how many sides could say that having been down to ten men for 87 minutes? It truly is a testament to the side’s resilience and hard-work.

Keep replicating performances like this and the wins will come – it’s a matter of when, not if.