Plymouth Argyle 1 Hartlepool United 1: Controversial penalty denies Pools deserved win

Thomas celebrates Pools' opener
Thomas celebrates Pools' opener

A controversial penalty decision robbed 10-man Hartlepool United of a precious win at high-flyers Plymouth Argyle.

Pools had taken the lead early on when Nathan Thomas' looping cross deceived Luke McCormick and the rest of the Plymouth backline to open the scoring.

But a late Jake Jervis penalty, rescued a point for Derek Adams' men, who ended the encounter, in which Craig Hignett was sent to the stands, a man to the good after Scott Harrison's late red card.

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Hignett resisted the temptation to throw Jordan Richards in at right-back, despite his impressive display for the reserves against Rotherham. Instead the gaffer trusted Liam Donnelly with the slot, after his classy display down the right following Carl Magnay's withdrawal last week.

The other change came up top with Padraig Amond thrown in to lead the line. Club Captain Billy Paynter dropped to the bench.

Argyle started the brighter of the sides creating a number of early opportunities - the classy Graham Carey seeing an effort blocked while Harrison had to turn a Tanner ball over his own crossbar with two Plymouth forwards lurking.

But as good as the home side were early on, Pools began to settle after the opening exchanges with Thomas and Alessandra looking dangerous.

And it was former Pilgrims man Alessandra who went closest for Pools after 12 minutes.

A move taken straight off the Maiden Castle training pitches saw Thomas cut back a corner to the wideman who peeled off but Plymouth's backline were equal to it, blocking his goal-bound effort.

There was little they could about Thomas' opener, though, which came in the 21st minute.

The winger's ball into the middle looped over the head of Luke McCormick and into the far corner.

Was it a shot or was it a cross? Either way it mattered little to Thomas and Pools.

Just seven minutes later Argyle should have been in with a chance of a leveller when Lewis Hawkins seemingly blocked a Carey free-kick in the area with his hand. It looked a stone wall penalty but Gavin Ward was unmoved.

Trevor Carson then had to be at his very best to deny playmaker Carey, whose curled effort was destined for the top corner, were it not for the acrobatics of the Pools keeper.

After the break the home side began to assert their authority on the game, but Pools held strong with Aristote Nsiala particularly impressive at the back.

Adams threw caution to the wind, going two up top before the hour, and it almost paid off when sub Jimmy Spencer, on for Craig Tanner, was inches away from a leveller.

A Ben Purrington cross from the right was nodded goalwards by Spencer but his header was off target. A let off for the visitors.

Josh Laurent went close, so too did Alessandra as Pools continued to look a threat on the break.

But they could hold out no more when Nsiala caught Spencer with a high boot in the area as he attempted to clear.

Jake Jervis made no mistake from the spot, slotting into Carson's bottom right-hand corner.

Protesting the harsh call by ref Ward, an angry Hignett was then sent to the stands.

There was even time for Harrison to be shown his second yellow in added time, but a manager and a man light Pools hung on for a point.