There are two ways you can look at Hartlepool United’s goalless draw at Leyton Orient on Saturday afternoon.
On one hand, Matthew Bates’ side missed the chance to close the gap on those at the top of League One, after playing over half an hour against 10 men at Brisbane Road.
On the other, this was a hard-fought point against a team who were second in the table before kick-off, and means Pools have now lost just two of their 16 league games this campaign.
Hartlepool midfielder Ryan Donaldson, 27, sees both sides of the coin, but believes his side should be credited for their performance in east London.
“It was a bit end to end but you have to give credit to the opposition sometimes,” said Donaldson after the game.
“You can see why they’re second in the league, they’re really good, kept two up top all the time, pass it well, run forward quick.
“We just struggled to turn it around a bit and get a foothold for long periods, but when you come here it’s a really tough place to come.”
Orient were reduced to 10 men when Joe Widdowson was sent off in the 59th minute for a challenge on Michael Woods.
The visitors had been under the cosh up until that point, and failed to take advantage after Widdowson was dismissed.
“This is the third time we’ve come up against 10 men this season, nine men at Halifax, and it’s the first time we haven’t got three points,” added Donaldson.
“There’s always a bit of regret after, Monday we’ll be fine and say it’s a good point.
“We should have worked the ball a bit better in the last 25 minutes but fair play to them, they kept two up top and their back three was brilliant and just snuffed us out time and time again.”
Even so, Donaldson, who has been deployed as a right wing-back this season, believes there was a greater importance not to lose the game and stay in touch with those at the top.
Pools may have dropped to eighth in the National League at the weekend, but they remain six points off league leaders Salford, who were held at home by Braintree.
“You can’t be dropping points to people at any stage of the season really, especially teams that are above you. It just becomes three points more,” said Donaldson.
“We’re still six off top, Salford drew as well so we’re in a good position to keep getting better, keep improving and get closer to the top.
“You’ve got to come to these places and not get beat, obviously ideally you win but we’ve done a good job of that so far.”
Donaldson is enjoying his new role following Pools’ switch to a 3-5-2 formation, but admitted he wasn’t able to get forward much against such a tough opponent.
Even so, the 27-year-old relished the chance to test himself against one of the best teams in the division.
“There are some big teams in this league, some good teams and they (Leyton Orient) are one of them,” said Donaldson.
“We wanted to go toe to toe with them, there’s nothing to lose coming here, they’re the games you want to play in.
“They were obviously on top for most of the game but give ourselves credit for grinding it out and getting a point in the end.
“We could have easily lost that game against 10 men and then we would have been disappointed. A point isn’t bad and we move on.”
Donaldson missed the games against Salford and Halifax with a hamstring injury last month but insisted the issue has cleared up now.
He also praised the loyal fans who made the long journey from the North East to E10.
“Terrific, I’m sure everyone has said it but you run out of words sometimes,” said Donalson when asked about the travelling supporters.
“It’s five hours away or whatever and they were fantastic, clapping us off at the end and it probably wasn’t the best performance they’ve seen all season.
“They were unbelievable so thanks to everyone who came down.”