Sutton United 1 Hartlepool United 1: Pools come from behind to claim crucial away day point
Hartlepool United came from behind to rescue an unlikely point at promotion-chasing Sutton United.
Having seen Ross Lafayette opening the scoring early doors, Josh Hawkes further improved his stock with yet another goal to ensure Matthew Bates' men left Gander Green Lane with a share of the spoils, which increased the gap to the bottom four to FIVE points.
On the selection front Pools caretaker Bates made just the one change to the side beaten by Solihull Moors at the Vic seven days previous.
In came Ryan Donaldson for his first start since October, with Rhys Oates dropping to the bench.
Scott Harrison also returned to the bench after a lengthy lay-off.
It didn't take promotion-chasing Sutton long to hit their stride.
After just nine minutes the hosts were in front and came from an error by skipper Carl Magnay.
The Pools defender was out-strengthened on the edge of his own area and caught the ball with his hand, gifting Sutton a dangerous free-kick.
Impressive left-back Aswad Thomas floated a perfect ball in for Lafayette to flick past the helpless Scott Loach.
Absolutely dominant, Sutton laid siege to the Pools goal.
And while Loach could do nothing about the opener, he had to be at his very best to keep Pools in the contest.
The former Watford and Notts County man made five or six stops to deny the rampant home frontline.
Second best all over the park Pools somehow managed to contrive an equaliser just before the half hour mark.
A speculative cross from the right by Michael Woods, walking wounded for much of the opening 45, was only half headed clear by the home defence and youngster Hawkes made no mistake from eight yards, hammering home for 1-1.
On the balance of play they didn't deserve it, but there were few complaints from the couple of hundred Pools fans behind the goal.
The goal did little for the flow of the game, with Sutton continuing to dominate possession and field position into the second period.
But while they created at will in the opening 45, Pools kept things a lot tighter after the break after a few choice words, I'm sure, from former defender Bates.
Compact, resilient and with much more of a threat, due in no small part to the introduction of Rhys Oates off the bench, Pools came on strong in the closing stages.
Having been hit with a sucker punch in the last two games Pools battened down the hatches at the close.
Things looked so comfortable, Pools were cruising, but, as he did against Guiseley, a moment of madness from Louis Laing almost gifted the hosts the win, but Lafayette was not quite as clinical with the last kick and Pools claimed a crucial point.