Hartlepool United 2-2 Notts County analysed: Great advert for the National League sees spoils shared at Meadow Lane
For the second time this season, Dave Challinor witnessed Hartlepool United throw away a two goal lead to draw 2-2.
The former AFC Fylde boss oversaw The Coasters’ late comeback at Victoria Park back in August before watching from the stands as Pools let a 2-0 advantage slip at the hands of Notts County at Meadow Lane on Saturday.
Challinor has been heavily linked with the permanent manager’s job at Hartlepool in recent weeks though has also emerged as the favourite to take charge at League Two side Morecambe. For the most part, he should have been very impressed with what he saw in Nottingham.
Pools went into the game on the back of a three game winning streak since Antony Sweeney took temporary charge.
Meanwhile, Notts had won six of their last eight matches and hadn’t conceded a league goal on home turf since their 5-1 win over Chorley in August.
But with just seven minutes on the clock, that was shattered as Gavan Holohan got Pools off to a perfect start when his 25-yard deflected effort found the bottom right corner of the goal.
Pools continued to impress and Luke James doubled the visitors’ advantage with a fine solo goal rounded off by a tidy finish into the right side of the net – his first of the campaign.
Sweeney's side were good value for their lead and arguably should have been further in front with Nicke Kabamba coming close with a header and the likes of Peter Kioso and Ryan Donaldson persistently getting into threatening areas.
For 44 first half minutes, Pools were as good as they have been in a long time as they made a strong County side look ordinary in comparison. The ball was being zipped around with relentless purpose and intent, not allowing the hosts a sniff until one error of judgement saw things take a turn for the worse.
Goalkeeper Ben Killip charged rashly off his line which allowed Wes Thomas to sneak a goal back with a smart finish that trickled into an empty net just before half-time.
It’s not the first time the England C international has done that this season but was still slightly uncharacteristic given his recent impressive displays in between the sticks.
2-1 at the break and the game had a very different complexion about it despite a near perfect first half performance. It’s those fine margins in football proving vital once again.
After the break, Notts came out stronger with a bit of momentum and the plentiful crowd now behind them. Pools were still able to create a few chances themselves with Kioso coming close just moments before the home side drew level.
A well worked attack saw an unmarked Thomas nod in his second of the match from a Regan Booty cross.
After that, the home side looked the more likely to snatch all three points but Pools were still able to muster up a couple of openings themselves as Fraser Kerr headed wide in the closing stages.
Luke Williams also returned from injury for a two minute cameo off the bench as he strives to put his injury issues behind him once again.
Hartlepool would have taken a draw before the match but having led 2-0, there was a distinct sense of a missed opportunity when the full-time whistle confirmed the 2-2 draw.
After executing their game plan against a solid Barnet side so well at Victoria Park last Saturday, the challenge was for Pools to keep that momentum going.
For 44-minutes, they not only kept it going but managed to raise the bar with their performance. Had they managed to maintain it for the full game, the proverbial corner would have very much been turned.
Frustratingly, it’s two points dropped, two points that would have seen them seven points off the top of the table with a game in hand.
But there were still positives as Pools will face few tougher tests this season than Notts County away. Everything about the game just felt as though it should be taking place at a higher level – from the setting, to the quality of football on show from both sides.
759 Pools fans – their strongest away following of the season so far – were quick to show their appreciation for the efforts of Sweeney and the players after the match as the United caretaker’s name bellowed around Meadow Lane
In the space of four games, the 36-year-old novice manager put himself in serious contention to be given such a big job permanently which is a real testament to himself.
The manner in which Sweeney has conducted himself and the results he’s helped generate have surpassed most people’s expectations so far and he’d be hard done by not to be given the job on a permanent basis.
Still, should someone like Challinor come in then it’s imperative he remains involved as a key part of the coaching staff. A Pools legend if ever there was one.
Notts County: Slocombe, McCrory, Rose, Turner, Thomas (Dennis 87), Doyle, Boldewijn, Rawlinson, Wootton, Brindley, Shields (Booty 46).
Subs not used: Tyson, Bakayogo, Osborne.
Notts County bookings: Rose, Boldewijn.
Pools: Killip, Kioso, Raynes, Kerr, Kitching, Mafuta, Featherstone, Holohan (Williams 88), Donaldson (Kennedy 81), James (Muir 72), Kabamba.
Subs not used: Cunningham, Hawkes
Pools bookings: none
Man of the match: Peter Kioso