Sweeney strike earns away point

Tranmere 1 Hartlepool United 1

HARTLEPOOL United came from behind to claim a point at Tranmere Rovers but failed to take victory against the 10-man hosts.

Pools were trailing to John Welsh’s first-half opener when Tony Sweeney levelled on 69 minutes.

Within 90 seconds Rovers goalkeeper Owain Fon Williams had been sent off for a trip on Ryan Noble but Pools were unable to press home their numerical advantage.

Neale Cooper was forced into two changes for the trip to Prenton Park with Evan Horwood (leg) and Sam Collins (calf) missing out, Jordan Richards coming in for his full debut and Jack Baldwin returning to the middle of the defence.

A scrappy start saw precious little in terms of goalmouth action and the closest either side came was a Zoumana Bakayogo swinger on 14 minutes which flew well wide of Scott Flinders’ goal.

Adam McGurk was next to have a go from a similarly fanciful distance just before the half-hour mark but he, too, was wayward.

The visitors’ first opening saw Noble steal a yard on the shoulder of Ian Goodison but the Jamaican centre-back did enough to recover and the Pools man snatched at a 20-yard effort which dribbled through to Fon Williams.

But it was the hosts who broke the monotony when Welsh turned home the opener five minutes before the break, the skipper connecting with Lucas Akins’ scuffed centre to steer into the bottom corner from 12 yards.

There was an immediate response from Pools but Luke James slammed over the crossbar from 25 yards.

The start to the second half was equally as dull as the first and Sweeney almost put through his own net when his hurried clearance bounced inches wide.

But the game came to life 20 minutes from the end.

Sweeney drew parity when he wriggled into the area and fired left-footed into the bottom for his eighth of the season.

And within 60 seconds Fon Williams was given his marching orders for a trip on Noble right on the fringe of the penalty area.

Neil Austin stepped up and hammered the resulting free-kick against the upright as Tranmere escaped a double punishment.

Noble should have put Pools in front just moments later when substitute Darren Holden landed an inch-perfect centre on his forehead but the striker nodded over the crossbar from just six yards out.