FULL-TIME REPORT: Hartlepool United 0 Middlesbrough 0

Colin Cooper
Colin Cooper

SCOTT Flinders produced a show of goalkeeping excellence as Hartlepool United held Middlesbrough to a goalless draw at Victoria Park.

The Pools No.1 kept out a second-half penalty from Boro striker Lucas Jutkiewicz while his save count entered double figures.

Flinders, who could well emerge as a transfer target of the Riversiders should Jason Steele leave the club, was the runaway man-on-the-match and, without his heroics, Pools would have been soundly beaten.

But Colin Cooper’s side had begun brightly and the best opening of the early exchanges fell their way on 17 minutes.

Luke James’ path to goal was curtailed by a sliding Jospeh Varga but, when Andy Monkhouse recycled possession and clipped a cross back into the danger zone, James was unlucky to see his looping header clawed over the crossbar by an anxious Jason Steele.

Monkhouse himself went close soon after when turning a header onto the roof of the net from a Jack Compton corner.

Pools keeper Scott Flinders was first called into action on 22 minutes when diving to palm clear a Grant Leadbitter rocket from 20 yards.

Boro were in the ascendancy as the half drew to a close and Flinders again had to be on his guard to thwart Jutkiewicz when he took aim from just inside the area.

Pools anchorman Simon Walton was struggling to cope with the pressing Boro midfield and it was from his errant pass that Marvin Emnes found himself in on goal, Flinders sparing his team-mate’s blushes as his spread-eagled frame denied the Dutch forward.

The hosts were in desperate need of the half-time whistle and Leadbitter again went close when sizing a 25-yard drive which brushed the roof of Flinders’ goal.

Cooper made three changes at the break and it was one of those introductions, teenage midfielder Brad Walker, who robbed Carayol with the Boro man haring in on goal.

The Teessiders continued to carve the better of the chances and Emnes, forcing an angle to shoot beyond Neil Austin, slammed a 14-yard lacer above the crossbar.

Austin, though, came to his side’s rescue soon after when Carayol, having jinked his way to the by-line, squared for Ben Gibson at the far post.

The full-back had a crowd of bodies still to negotiate and it was one of those in the form of Austin who appeared to divert the shot up and over the crossbar.

Carayol was proving Boro’s tormentor-in-chief and his low, stinging blast from inside the area was again repelled by Flinders.

The home keeper was proving impassable and that was again the case when Sweeney felled Emnes for the visiting penalty on 73 minutes.

Jutkiewicz took responsibility and, despite sending a well-struck effort towards the bottom corner, the Pools netminder got down to low to glove to safety.

Steve Howard was then introduced for Pools to a smattering of boos from the home supporters.

Jutkiewicz went in on goal soon after but, once more, Flinders proved his nemesis.

Still Flinders wasn’t done and it was again Jutkiewicz who failed to find a way beyond the imposing custodian having raced clear on goal five minutes from time.