Hartlepool United 2-2 Mansfield Town: Injury to Luke Molyneux overshadows an entertaining draw at the Suit Direct Stadium
Molyneux, celebrating his 24th birthday, had been finding his stride after marking the occasion with another excellent goal to drag Pools level in a game they trailed.
Graeme Lee’s side found themselves two goals behind midway through the first half after a quickfire double from the Stags had the visitors in a commanding lead.
George Lapslie fired through the returning Ben Killip from the edge of the area before former Newcastle United man James Perch managed to loop a header over Killip into the corner to extend the lead four minutes later.
Pools were fortunate not to fall further behind before Joe Grey grabbed them a lifeline when he bundled in a rebound four minutes before the interval.
And as quick as they fell two behind, Pools levelled things in an equally swift manner as Molyneux found the bottom corner from the edge of the area.
But the evening took a turn for the worse for Pools’ leading goalscorer after being on the receiving end of a firm challenge from Perch which left the 24-year-old writhing in pain.
Supporters looked on with concern as Molyneux was carried away on a stretcher.
Lee reverted to a back four making three changes from Saturday’s defeat at Northampton Town.
Out went Gary Liddle, Tom Crawford and goalkeeper Nicholas Bilokapic as Killip returned from illness with Isaac Fletcher and Grey returning outfield.
And Lee will have been pleased with the opening he got from his side as Pools began with the kind of energy and vigour he had desired.
Molynuex twice teed up midfielder Bryn Morris in the early exchanges who went close as Pools took the game to the play-off chasing Stags.
But those signs of encouragement soon faded as Nigel Clough’s side settled into the game to bring two good saves from Killip.
First Ryan Stirk stung Killip’s palms before Jamie Murphy brought brilliant stop from little more than six yards after a throw-in from the right was flicked into the area.
But the visitors did find a way through soon after as Lucas Akins and Jordan Bowery linked well before Lapslie fired through a crowded penalty area beyond Killip.
Lapslie then turned provider as he whipped a teasing cross in from the right which skidded up off the turf onto Perch’s head and looped over Killip into the corner.
Bowery had the chance to add a third when capitalising on a mix up between Timi Odusina and David Ferguson only for Killip to make a big stop.
But out of nothing Pools grabbed a lifeline as a pinpoint ball over the top from Neill Byrne found Jamie Sterry and his effort was parried into the path of Grey who had continued his run to bundle into an empty net.
And Pools were level within minutes as Molyneux found a pocket of space outside the area before expertly picking out the bottom corner.
Joe White, who replaced the injured Molyneux, missed a golden opportunity in stoppage time to win it for Pools only to drag wide.
It’s a creditable point for Lee’s side but the immediate concern will be with Molyneux and whether his season is now over.