Bristol Rovers 2 Hartlepool Utd 2: Rovers peg back James’s double

Hartlepool's Michael Duckworth (red) takes on Bristol Rovers today. Picture by Frank Reid.
Hartlepool's Michael Duckworth (red) takes on Bristol Rovers today. Picture by Frank Reid.
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HARTLEPOOL United were denied a first away win of the season with a heartbreaking last-minute equaliser by John-Joe O’Toole.

Pools were just 60 seconds away from three points when the midfielder side-footed home from Lee Smith’s cross to make it 2-2.

Bristol Rovers had taken the lead 10 minutes before half-time through Matt Harrold.

But Luke James seemed to have turned it around with two super goals before the late intervention by O’Toole.

Pools made a solid start at the Memorial Stadium where Bristol Rovers did not unduly trouble the away defence early on.

The Gas had a fourth-minute corner but no Rovers player couold get a head or foot to the ball.

Pools had their first sight of the home box in the fifth minute when Andy Monkhouse laid the ball off to Jonathan Franks.

But the scorer of last week’s opening goal against Accrington Stanley showed how much better his right foot is when his speculative left-footer went out on the far side for a throw-in.

Michael Duckworth was the player on the park seeing the most of the ball.

Not only did he have the baqll at his feet down the right, he was taking numerous throw ins.

But despite plenty of possession it got Pools no where near the Bristol area.

Rovers had their first attempt at Scott Flinders’ goal in the 14th minute but Mitch Harding flashed his near-post header wide from Andy Bond’s cross.

The match went quiet for a spell but burst into life when Simon Walton brought a flying save out of Steve Mildenhall.

Matty Dolan, Monkhouse and Walton combined cleverly in centre-field before Walton went forward and let fly from 20 yards with Mildenhall denying him with his acrobatics.

Rovers were resorting to long shots but Eliot Richards was a mile wide from 30 yards.

Pools were getting a foothold in the game with a couple of dangerous Jack Compton free-kicks going into the box but with no away player getting on the end of them.

Franks came agonisingly close to giving Pools a 31st-minute lead when his right-foot shot from the edge of the box rebounded back off Mildenhall’s right post with the goalie beaten.

All the good work went to waste as they conceded a goal in the 35th minute.

MATT HARROLD was allowed to turn in the box too easily and his right-foot shot beat Flinders to his right.

But barely had the announcer finished delivering the scorer’s name to the celebrating fans, Pools had levelled straight from the kick-off, JAMES turning and firing in a stunner from 20 yards with Mildenhall no where near it.

Pools won three corners late in the half and following the third, they snatched the lead with JAMES again the scorer.

Franks won the corner and seconds later delivered a great ball over from the right. Christian Burgess made a nuisance of himself on the six-yard box and the ball ran to James who blasted home.

Half-time: Bristol Rovers 1 Pools 2

Rovers made a storming start to the second half and twice came desperately close to levelling.

Flinders punched clear but with the keeper out of his goal it allowed Mitch Harding to shoot.

His effort took a heavy deflection and thankfully for Pools came back off the crossbar.

But Rovers were building up a head of Gas and Harrold then went near on 50 minutes, putting his effort wide after a move with Harding and Bond.

Pools then enjoyed plenty of the ball, Walton at the heart of the play.

Walton combined nicely with Duckworth just before the hour and a big gap opened up for the right-back.

Alas, the shot did not match the approach play and it went harmlessly wide.

Harding was causing problems and he was again just off target from a Bond cross on the right on 61 minutes.

Clearly though Harding was not enough of a threat for Gas boss John Ward who brought him of on 64, Ellis Harrison coming on.

Harrison’s first contribution was not a good one, being high, wide and not at all handsome from long range midwat through the half.

He was starting to find his feet and so were Rovers and the away defence and Flinders needed to show their mettle, Baldwin making one vital clearance.

Cooper made a change 15 minutes from time bringing Sam Collins on at centre-half, withdrawing Franks and pushing Baldwin into midfield.

Pools then had two glorious chances to seal the deal.

James went clear 10 minutes after seizing on some sloppy home play.

He raced into the box but Mildenhall saved superbly diving to his left.

And from the corner, Burgess had a free header from Compton’s flag kick but could not connect.

Pools had defended incredibly well only to be undone with one minute to go.

Baldwin was pushed off the ball allowing Lee Smith to put the ball across the box for JOHN-JOE O’TOOLE to coolly sidefoot in the equaliser.

Pools hit straight back when sub James Poole was fouled on the edge of the area. But Compton’s free-kick hit the wall.

Full-time: Bristol Rovers 2 Pools 2