Mansfield Town 2 Hartlepool United 2: Pools remain winless but Josh Umerah rescues a spirited point for Keith Curle's side
Josh Umerah played the part of super-sub as he scored twice in the final 30 minutes to rescue a point for Keith Curle’s side and lift them off the bottom of the table.
Goals from George Lapslie and Riley Harbottle looked to have condemned Pools to their sixth defeat of the season early in the second half before Umerah handed Curle’s side a quick lifeline with almost his first touch after being brought on as a substitute.
And Umerah would seal an unlikely point at the One Call Stadium when he rolled beyond Christy Pym a minute from time to send the travelling 302 Hartlepool supporters wild behind the goal.
Umerah’s omission was the headline team news at the One Call Stadium as interim boss Curle made the decision to bench Pools’ leading scorer.
The 25-year-old has been a regular this season other than when an ankle injury ruled him out of the 1-1 draw with Colchester United at the beginning of the month.
But interim boss Curle made the bold decision to bench Umerah in favour of midfielder Tom Crawford who returned from his one-match ban with Mikael Ndjoli moving to lead the line.
Jamie Sterry remained a notable absentee from Curle’s squad as he continues to recover from a back injury while Rollin Menayese replaced Mouhamed Niang who was forced out of last week’s stalemate with Gillingham with a head injury.
But if Curle was hoping the change would lead to a more prominent Pools attack then he was mistaken as Mansfield dominated much of the opening 45 minutes.
Ben Killip was on hand to smother when Stephen McLaughlin’s cross pin-balled around the Hartlepool penalty area before Stags skipper Ollie Clarke was able to wriggle free of three Pools players in midfield before firing over Killip’s bar to set the tone.
George Maris spurned a good position when firing over from another McLaughlin cross after the former Nottingham Forest defender refused the opportunity to shoot himself.
But McLaughlin would not turn down his next invitation as he again found space on the left to drive at Euan Murray before bringing a fine save out of Killip at his near post.
And the resulting corner ought to have led to the opening goal when Oli Hawkins nodded down into the path of Lucas Akins who somehow turned over from inside six-yards.
Akins came closer moments later however when firing a fierce effort at goal only for Kilip to save well to his right before the Pools goalkeeper was up quickly to deal with McLaughlin’s rebound from inside the area.
Pools would have the linesman to thank for the scores remaining level just after the half hour mark when another McLaughlin cross from the left was expertly swept home by Stephen Quinn but his celebrations were cut short.
David Ferguson wasted a promising position when curling high over the bar from a rare free-kick in the Mansfield half before Pools almost snatched an unlikely lead in first half stoppage time.
With little in front of him, Murray decided ‘why not’ and sent a thunderous effort at goal which clipped the outside of Pym’s post with thanks to the slightest of touches from Stags stopper.
But the game continued in the same manner after the break with the Stags having to wait little more than five minutes to make the breakthrough.
Kellan Gordon whipped in a teasing cross from the right which found Lapslie unmarked in the centre of the Pools penalty area and he was able to wrong-foot Killip with first time finish.
The home side would have doubled their lead minutes later but for a stunning save from Killip to deny Lapslie from close range.
Lapsplie powered an effort at goal but was denied by the face of Killip who forced a corner but unfortunately he was unable to prevent the Stags adding to their lead as Harbottle was on hand to slot home from the resulting corner.
Brody Paterson failed do deal with ball into the box as Killip’s punched clearance landed at the feet of the Nottingham Forest loan who slotted home.
You feared the worst for a fragile Pools at that stage but they were immediately handed a lifeline when Curle turned to his bench to bring on Umerah when the striker latched onto Harbottle’s short back-pass to round Pym in goal and find the corner.
And while Pools still had plenty of dangerous attacks to deal with, they grew in the closing stages as they sensed an equaliser.
And that equaliser would come when Umerah latched onto a long ball forward to slide beyond the on-rushing Pym and beating the defender on the line in front of the traveling Pools contingent.
It’s a result which means the winless run extends to 11 games this season and 20 in total for Hartlepool but there is a sense of encouragement in their spirited fightback ahead of what looks an important double header on home soil next week.
Mansfield Town XI: Pym, Gordon (Bowery 82), Hewitt, Hawkins, Harbottle, McLaughlin, Clarke ©, Maris (Law 89), Quinn (Wallace 86), Lapslie (Swan 82), Akins
Subs: Flinders, Perch, O’Toole,
Hartlepool United XI: Killip, Tumilty (Paterson 45), Menayese, Murray, Lacey, Ferguson, Shelton (Umerah 62), Sylla (Oduor 89), Crawford, McDonald (Hamilton 75), Ndjoli (Cooke 45)
Subs: Letheren, Paterson, Grey
Referee: Craig Hicks