HALF-TIME MATCH REPORT: Oxford United v Hartlepool United in Sky Bet League Two

Colin Cooper during the game against Bristol Rovers. Picture by FRANK REID
Colin Cooper during the game against Bristol Rovers. Picture by FRANK REID

HARTLEPOOL United go into the half-time break drawing 0-0 with Oxford United at the Kassam Stadium.

10th-placed Pools improved as the half wore on but their have been few clear cut chances in this Sky Bet League Two match.

Pools boss Colin Cooper won’t be to disappointed with the opening 45 minutes though with his side very much in the game.

The Pools manager made just one chance with winger Jack Compton coming in for the injured Andy Monkhouse, the only change to the Hartlepool United team.

The 33-year-old left the field in last weekend’s 4-0 win over Bristol Rovers at Victoria Park with a hamstring strain and Pools again lined up in a 4-4-2 formation.

The rest of the starting XI was unchanged but right-back Michael Duckworth, out injured with soft tissue damage, returned to the bench.

Oxford United had caretaker manager Mickey Lewis in the dugout for his 12th game in charge after former boss Chris Wilder left for Northampton Town.

Lewis was without suspended duo Tom Newey and Michael Raynes while Johnny Mullins was injured after damage to his foot after colliding with the advertising boards at Chesterfield last Saturday.

Oxford are expected to announce their new manager on Saturday.

It was a tentative start to the game from both sides, playing in heavy rain in Oxford.

The first real opportunity of the match for either side came in the 11th minute, on-loan Manchester United forward Jack Barmby was given a free run towards the Oxford goal.

But the 19-year-old couldn’t make the most of the opportunity and fired a shot just wide of Ryan Clarke’s left-hand post.

Moments later James Constable had a glorious chance to test Flinders but mis-cued his kick from 12-yards after good work down the left from Sean Rigg.

Then, in the 15th minute captain Sam Collins looked like he had been fouled but referee Andy Davies waved play on with David Connolly clean through.

But just as he was about to shoot Simon Walton slid in with a fantastic challenge from behind to nip the ball of Connolly’s boot.

Compton then slid in 19-year-old top scorer Luke James but he rushed his shot and screwed his effort well-wide of the right-hand post.

Goalkeeper Scott Flinders then had to be alert in the 19th minute to prevent Connolly’s low shot from creeping inside his front post, doing just enough to push it wide for a corner.

Pools were sloppy in possession at times, with Compton in particular guilty of a couple of stray passes.

While Oxford edged the first half in terms of possession and chances created Pools were holding firm but needing to be quicker and slicker when they had the ball.

Jordan Richards had acres of space down the right-hand side but every time he committed himself his teammates failed to find him with a decent pass.

Chances were few and far between, while the rain got heavier as the half wore on.

Pools finally started to exert a continued spell of pressure with five minutes of the half left and managed to win five consecutive corners.

On-loan Middlesbrough defender Christian Burgess went closest, his header just tipped on to the top of the bar from Clarke.

Barmby forced Clarke into a smart save a minute before the half-time break, his right-footed shot was pushed wide of the right-hand post after a patient build-up from Cooper’s side.

But the half finished goalless.

Half Time: Oxford 0 Pools 0

Pools (4-4-2): Flinders, Richards, Collins (C), Burgess, Holden, Walton, Walker, Compton, Barmby, James, Harewood.

Subs Not Used: Rafferty (gk), Rowbotham, Hawkins, Sweeney, Duckworth, Franks, Poole.

Oxford United (4-4-2): Clarke, Hunt, Bevans, Wright (C), Long, Williams (Potter, 37), Whing, Ruffels, Rigg, Connolly, Constable

Subs Not Used: Crocombe, Smalley, Rose, Davies, O’Dowda, Wroe.

Referee: Andy Davies (Hampshire)