MATTY Dolan’s second-half penalty helped secure a well-deserved point for ten-man Hartlepool United against Chesterfield today.
A 29th-minute Tendayi Darikwa strike had the Spireites ahead, but Pools hit back strongly at the start of the second half, with Dolan on target after James Poole was fouled while running in on goal.
It was a fast-paced, frantic match with both sides looking for all three festive points and Andy Monkhouse saw red in the second half.
Both sides had to settle for a point though.
Cooper made two changes to his Hartlepool team. Bradley Walker, who scored the equaliser in the 1-1 draw against Burton Albion last time out, came in for Simon Walton, while Jonathan Franks started in place of forward James Poole.
Former Hartlepool United star Ritchie Humphreys, who left Pools in the summer, started at left-back for Chesterfield, who were top of the table going into the match.
It was a frantic and breathless start to the match from both sides inside a packed Proact Stadium.
Jonathan Franks had the first clear opportunity but his dipping volley on the turn was wonderfully palmed over the bar by Tommy Lee in the Chesterfield goal in the third minute.
The Spireites hit back quickly though and in the ninth minute Jack Baldwin had to acrobatically clear off the line after Darikwa did well to calmly roll the roll the ball to Armand Gnanduillet.
But Essex-born Badlwin was quick to backtrack onto the line and clear it away, Scott Flinders then clawed the ball away from danger.
The pace of the game didn’t settle with both sides pressing forward.
Pools were then dealt a blow in the 18th minute, when injured Jack Compton - who had started brightly but started to struggle with an ankle - was replaced with Poole.
Bizarrely the referee Gary Sutton seemed to threaten to book Compton, who had fallen to the ground near the dugouts, but the referee kept his cards in his pockets.
Pools kept the same formation but Franks was pulled out wide and Poole tucked inside behind Luke James.
Andy Monkhouse then stole a run on his marker but headed his effort wide, while on-loan Matty Dolan had a chance from the edge of the area but dragged his volley wide.
Meanwhile, Gnanduillet was continuing to cause Pools problems and dragged a shot wide of the left-hand post when he should have at least hit the target in the 18th minute.
Eoin Doyle had Flinders flying through the air in the 28th minute but his 22-yard shot was just wide of the right-hand post as the table toppers.
The warning signs were there for the home side and Chesterfield took the lead in the 29th minute.
Monkhouse was penalised for an alleged foul inside their area and from the resulting long ball, Marc Richards found himself in space on the left hand flank.
His cross found Darikwa 12-yards out and his controlled first-time volley was placed perfectly passed Flinders to give the Spireites the lead.
Humphreys was seeing plenty of the ball down the left hand flank and was Chesterfield’s main man from set pieces.
Monkhouse should have equalised in the 45th minute but he scuffed his shot from inside the area into the grateful hands of Tommy Lee as Pools cranked up the pressure in the five minutes of added on time.
The time had been added on due to lengthy delays earlier in the half while the physios tended to Michael Duckworth and Drew Talkbot, who had both been injured in separate incidents but were able to carry on.
Baldwin was booked for a foul on Sam Togwell as the first half came to an end.
Cooper’s men had finished the first half strongly and they carried that momentum into the second, equalising in the 48th minute courtesy of a Dolan penalty after Poole was fouled by Sam Hird 14 yards from goal.
Incredibly the referee chose not to send off Hird, or at least book him, for what was a clear goalscoring opportunity.
But Dolan coolly slotted the ball into the right hand corner of the net to the delight of the travelling army of Pools fans.
Chesterfield then had two good chances to pull themselves back in front but Richards and then Gnanduillet fired high over Flinders’ bar despite finding themselves in good areas to at least hit the target.
The pace and intensity of the match racked up a notch as the second half wore on.
Monkhouse was booked for a dive in the penalty area but it looked slightly harsh as both players seemed to connect with each other but it would be a decision that would come back to haunt Pools.
Moments later goalscorer Darikwa went into the referee’s book for a late challenge on Monkhouse on the left wing.
And it seemed to agitate Monkhouse who received his second yellow of the match in the 69th minute for a hefty challenge in the air on Talbot, who lashed out with his feet but escaped any further action himself.
The red card saw James pushed wide left, with Poole up front by himself.
Dolan then went close with 20 minutes left to play but his rasping left-footed effort was just wide of Lee’s left-hand post.
Jay O’Shea and Marc Richards both had good chances to score but O’Shea’s was straight into the hands of Flinders while Richards’ curled his effort wide.
The second half was as open as the first and Dolan found himself in two good areas but was unable to test the home keeper.
The pace didn’t settle but the number of clear cut chances did reduce despite both sides probing for the win.
Cooper brought Nialle Rodney on for Jonathan Franks as the minutes ticked down with a clear intent shown by the Pools bench to go for the win.
Ian Evatt had the final chance of the match for the home side, after doing well to wriggle himself free inside the penalty area his shot was weak into the hands of Flinders.
But it was James who almost won it in the final seconds but his stunning strike from 25 yards was just tipped over the bar by Lee.
Chesterfield (4-4-2): Lee, Humphreys, Banks, Doyle (McSheffrey 76), Evatt, Togwell (Cooper 80), Darikwa, Gnanduillet (O’Shea 66) Talbot, Hird, Richards. Subs not used: Mason, Brown, Smith, McFadzean. Goal: Darikwa 29. Booked: Darikwa.
Hartlepool United (4-4-1-1): Flinders, Austin, Duckworth, Baldwin, Burgess, Dolan, Walker, Compton (Poole 18), Monkhouse, Franks (Rodney 87), James. Subs not used: Rafferty, Collins, Holden, Walton, Sweeney. Goal: Dolan 48. Booked: Baldwin, Monkhouse. Sent Off: Monkhouse (69).
Attendance: 7,680. Referee: Gary Sutton.