HALF-TIME: Goalless between Stevenage and Hartlepool United at the break

Stuart Parnaby  in action for Hartlepool United against Middlesbrough. Picture by FRANK REID
Stuart Parnaby in action for Hartlepool United against Middlesbrough. Picture by FRANK REID

HARTLEPOOL United are drawing 0-0 with Stevenage after the first 45 minutes of the new season.

It has been a competitive and at times feisty encounter but despite chances for either side, neither could do enough to take the lead.

Pools manager Colin Cooper handed debuts to Matthew Bates, Stuart Parnaby and Tommy Miller.

Luke James, who is at the centre of intense transfer speculation, started up front alongside Marlon Harewood at The Lamex Stadium.

In defence, Sam Collins partnered Bates in the centre with Neil Austin being asked to slot in at left-back and Michael Duckworth in the right-back berth.

Ex-Boro utility man Parnaby starts in midfield alongside Miller, with Brad Walker and Jack Compton also in midfield.

New arrivals Joel Dixon, a goalkeeper signed on an emergency loan from Sunderland, midfielder Michael Woods and Ryan Brobbel, a winger signed on a months loan from Boro, are all among the subs for the opening day of the League Two season.

Ex-Pools midfielder Simon Walton signed for Stevenage in the summer but was suspended for today’s match.

As you’d expect on the opening day of the season both sides looked eager to get off to a good start and it was a frantic opening few minutes.

The first opportunity fell to Jack Compton. The Pools winger clipping the crossbar with a lovely curled effort from inside the penalty area in the second minute.

Moments later up the other end Adam Marriott forced Scott Flinders into a smart save, the short from 20-yards straight into his gloves.

James suffered a heavy blow to the back of his head but was quickly back on to his feet.

Charlie Lee and Darius Charles went close for the home side, the latter curling an effort just wide of Flinders’ left hand post with 15 minutes gone.

Charles was able to break free after a late heavy challenge on Miller went unpunished on the half-way line.

Pools, at times, were sloppy in possession against a dangerous Stevenage side who needed no excuse to bomb forward.

In the 20th minute they should have taken the lead.

Charles beat Bates for pace down the left-flank and passed across goal towards the onrushing Marriott. It looked a certain goal but the combination of Walker and a sliding Sam Collins denied the frontman.

Pools were under the cosh but had managed to ride out a mid-half period of pressure from the home side.

With seven minutes to go before the break Walker caught Lee with a high boot and the referee Mark Haywood awarded a free-kick 22 yards out.

A clever routine saw Lee roll the ball towards Marriott who found himself with just enough space to toe punt a shot at goal.

Thankfully for Pools, Flinders was in the right place and produced a strong block for a corner.

It became a feisty encounter as the half wore on, Jack Compton clashing with Jon Ashton and then James fell to the floor after an off the ball incident with Harry Worley at the back for Stevenage.

The 19-year-old was shaking his head as he walked off for treatment but was soon back on the pitch.

Duckworth broke free down the right-hand side and cut inside towards Parnaby, but his floated effort was well over the bar.

First Half: Stevenage 0 Pools 0

Pools (4-4-2): Flinders, Duckworth, Collins, Bates (C), Austin, Walker, Parnaby, Miller, Compton, Harewood, James.

Subs: Dixon, Richards, Holden, Woods, Hawkins, Brobbel, Franks.

Stevenage (4-4-2): Beasant, Dembele, Worley, Wells (C), Ashton, Whelpdale, Lee, Bond, Pett, Marriott, Charles.

Subs: Day, Calcutt, Okimo, Johnson, Deacon.

Referee: Mark Haywood