TWO second-half goals from Jonathan Franks earned Hartlepool United a point away to Cheltenham Town in Sky Bet League Two.
The lively forward was the difference in the second half as Colin Cooper’s men came from two goals down at half-time to win a deserved point in an entertaining game.
Goals from Jermaine McGlashan in the fourth minute and a Kemar Roofe header had given Mark Yates’ side a comfortable half-time lead.
But Pools were quick to hit back in the second half courtesy of Franks’ cool finish in the 54th minute and then the equalising strike in the 71st minute.
It brought a welcome end to a poor run of three successive away defeats in the league for Pools, who are 14th in the league.
Pools boss Cooper made three changes to his side for the match away at The Abbey Bishop Business Stadium.
In came Franks, Darren Holden and Antony Sweeney with James Poole, Luke James and Jack Compton all dropping to the bench as Cooper opted for a new 3-5-2 formation.
Andy Monkhouse and Franks started up front with Michael Duckworth and Holden in the wing-back positions.
Sweeney, Matty Dolan and Simon Walton make up the midfield three as Pools looked to turn around their away form, which has seen them lose the last three away from Victoria Park.
It wasn’t the start Cooper would have been looking for though as Cheltenham took the lead within the opening four minutes.
Jermaine McGlashan took advantage of a mix-up between Scott Flinders and Neil Austin in the box and slotted the ball home with his right boot from a tight angle to give the home side the lead.
It was an open and entertaining first 10 minutes and Cooper’s side should have levelled through Franks.
His strong header from a pin-point Holden cross was palmed away by the outstretched Scott Brown and away from danger.
Craig Braham-Barrett and Kemar Roofe were causing Pools problems down both flanks, making the most of the lack of full-backs with both Holden and Duckworth pushed high up the field.
Cheltenham had another opportunity to score but Jason Taylor’s effort was delfected over the bar by Walton, who had started the match deep in front of the back three.
Holden was finding himnself in space down the left flank but was unable to deliver a killer cross into the middle.
Franks, meanwhile, was again causing problems and found himself free just outside the penalty area but his right-footed shot was dragged wide of the post.
The pace settled down as the game approached the 30 minute mark.
Monkhouse was denied penalty in the 30th minute, challenged as he tore down on goal but the referee Steven Rushton gave a corner kick.
And it was the versatile Monkhouse at the heart of the action again moments later.
His strong header from the six-yard box was well saved by Brown after Christian Burgess had flicked on a Dolan corner.
But it was Cheltenham that doubled their lead, in the 37th minute, courtesy of a looping Roofe header from close range after a fine cross from David Noble.
Flinders had no chance as the ball sailed over his head and into the net.
A bitter blow for Cooper, whose side had just started to come back into the match.
Pools did have the ball in the back of the net courtesy of a fine finish from Franks just before the half-time whistle but it was disallowed for what looked like a soft challenge by Sweeney on Craig Braham-Barrett.
HALF TIME: Cheltenham Town 2 Pools 0
Cooper reverted to 4-4-2 for the start of the second half, with winger Jack Compton coming on for Holden and Sweeney moving out to the right wing.
And it didn’t take long for Pools to halve the deficit.
Burgess’ looping header inside his own box from a Cheltenham cross was caught by Flinders whose quick up-field punt found Franks on the edge of the Cheltenham area and he calmy slotted it past Brown to make it 2-1 in the 54th minute.
It was just the start Cooper’s men needed, who were looking far more comfortable in the familiar formation.
A little too comfortable at times mind, as Flinders’ poor kick was snapped up by Cheltenham’s McGlashan who tore down on the Pools goal, rounded Flinders but his shot rolled across the goal line before being cleared.
The pace of the game again slowed and Monkhouse was booked in the 65th minute for petulantly kicking the shins of Cheltenham substitute Russell Penn.
Club captain Sweeney was then subbed for James Poole as Cooper looked to get his side back on the front foot.
Sweeney had been subdued in his return to the starting eleven.
Franks on the other had had looked very lively and bagged his second of the match to pull Pools level in the 71st minute.
He showed lovely footwork to create some room for himself on the edge of the area and his right-footed shot was too much for Brown as it clipped the post on the way into the back of the net.
The Pools bench erupted along with the 155 travelling fans.
The game was open and either side could have snatched all three points as the game entered the final 10 minutes.
Franks almost grabbed his hat-trick, but he poked the ball just wide of the post in the 83rd minute after being put in by Monkhouse.
It was an entertaining game and both sides would probably have been relieved to pick up a point come the final whistle.
FULL TIME: Cheltenham Town 2 Pools 2
Cheltenham Town: (4-4-2): Brown, Taylor, Brown, Elliott, Harrison, McGlashan, Richards (Cureton, 83), Jombati, Braham-Barrett, Roofe (Penn 45), Noble.
Subs Not Used: Roberts, Deering, Gornell, Goldson, Ajala.
Hartlepool United (3-5-2): Flinders, Duckworth, Austin, Baldwin, Burgess, Holden (Compton, 45), Walton, Dolan, Sweeney (Poole, 65), Monkhouse, Franks.
Subs Not Used: Rafferty, Collins, Walker, James, Rodney.
Referee: Steven Rushton
Attendance: 2,491 (Pools 155)