A SECOND half wondergoal from 17-year-old Bradley Walker secured a point for Hartlepool United against Burton Albion in Sky Bet League Two.
Burton right-back Phil Edwards had given the away side a controversial first half lead after he fired the ball underneath the legs of Scott Flinders in the 17th minute at Victoria Park.
The Pools players and supporters felt aggrieved due to a foul not being given on Luke James in the build up to the goal.
Edward’s strike gave Burton the half-time lead but Pools pulled level in some style courtesy of a fine strike from teenage substitute Walker from the edge of the area mid-way through the second half to make it 1-1.
Top scorer James and James Poole both returned to the Hartlepool United starting eleven for the match against Burton.
Colin Cooper reverted back to a 4-4-1-1 formation, with Poole playing behind 10-goal top scorer James at Victoria Park.
Jonathan Franks and Bradley Walker dropped down to the bench as Cooper shuffled his pack against promotion chasing Burton, who we sixth in the league before kick-off.
Pools started the day in 14th position looking to make inroads into the teams above them ahead o the busy festive period.
Burton had the first attempt on goal, a free-kick from joint top scorer Adam McGurk deflected just inches over Scott Flinders’ bar in the 4th minute for a corner.
The dangerous Chris Hussey’s corner was flicked on towards the far post before Christian Burgess finally cleared the danger.
Simon Walton then had a shot blocked from the edge of the area and James Poole’s effort from 20 yards was easily gathered by Dean Lyness in the Burton goal.
It was an open first 10 minutes and Burton almost took the lead but Matty Palmer somehow headed the ball over the bar from a just couple of yards out.
The danger signs were there though and Burton took the lead in the 17th minute through Edwards’ low strike under the legs of Flinders from inside the penalty area.
But the Pools players felt referee Richard Clark should have blown for what looked like a clear foul on James near the half-way line in the build up.
But Clark waved play on and from the resulting pass into the box, Edwards chested the ball down and shot low and hard under Flinders - leading to loud boos from the fans and portests from the players.
The decision deflated the Pools players and it took a while for them to get their rhythm going again.
Burton’s wingers, Hussey and Jimmy Phillips were causing all sorts of problems for the Pools defence in the first half hour, breaking with pace and intent at every given opportunity.
But Pools began to edge their way back in and Poole went close in the 27th minute but his dipping effort from just inside the area was wide of Lyness’ left-hand post.
On-loan Middlesbrough defender Christian Burgess then went close with a powerful header but it was deflected wide of the left stick.
Jack Compton, Neil Austin and Simon Walton had whipped in several dangerous crosses but Burton’s defence was alert to the danger and the ball never dropped kindly for James.
In the 32nd minute, veteran winger Andy Monkhouse thought he’d equalised after connecting with Poole’s delicate lob only to see goalscorer Edwards intercept the ball as it headed towards the corner of the net and clear the danger.
James then tried his luck with a half-volley in the 40th minute following a Monkhouse knock down but it was at a nice height for Lyness, while Poole also tested the Burton keeper with a half-volley as the clock ticked towards the half-time break.
Compton had the final attempt of the half for Cooper’s side but his rasping left-footed strike from the edge of the area didn’t dip quick enough as it whistled over the bar.
HALF TIME: Pools 0 Burton Albion 1
The second half started brightly for Pools and James should have equalised in the 48th minute after a lovely flick from strike partner Poole put him through but his effort was blocked by Lyness, who had spread himself well.
Billy Kee then had a wonderful chance to put Burton Albion 2-0 up moments later but somehow the striker’s effort over the head of the stranded Flinders from just inside the penalty area floated over the bar when it looked easier to score.
Pools hit back again though and Monkhouse had another effort cleared off the line in the 61st minute, he beat the keeper but Ian Sharps just managed to hook the ball clear despite appeals from Monkhouse it had crossed the line.
The winger probably could have done more to ensure it crossed the line himself.
It wasn’t long though before Pools were back on level terms, substitute Walker with a crisp, first time, shot using the outside of his right boot into the top left corner of the net.
Walker had only been on the pitch for two minutes before his screaming effort to pull Pools level. It was the 17-year-old’s first goal for Pools and what a way to open his account.
Pools had been revitalised by the introduction of Walker and Jonathan Franks, who brought energy and pace to the Pools team.
The game was there for the taking now for Cooper’s men.
Former Sunderland forward and Hartlepool-born Adam Reed came on for Burton Albion with 15 minutes left to play as Gary Rowett also looked for his side to push on and take the three points.
As the game entered the final 10 minutes, James dinked his way into the area before firing an effort just wide of the left hand post.
Tenions were rising at Victoria Park with both sides looking capable of snatching all three points but neither side could carve out a clear goalscoring chance as the minutes ticked by.
Monkhouse went closest in the 93rd minute but his poor attempt from the edge of the box was well wide of the post as both sides had to settle for a pre-Christmas point.
FULL TIME: Pools 1 Burton Albion 1
Hartlepool United (4-4-1-1): Flinders, Duckworth, Austin (C), Baldwin, Burgess, Walton (Walker, 67), Dolan, Compton, Monkhouse, Poole (Franks, 63), James.
Subs Not Used: Rafferty, Collins, Holden, Sweeney, Rodney.
Goal: Walker, 69.
Burton Albion (4-4-2): Lyness, Edwards, Hussey, Sharps (C), McCrory (Diamond, 45), Weir, Phillips, Cansdell-Sherriff, McGurk (Reed, 76), Palmer, Kee (Howe, 71).
Subs Not Used: Siegrist, Knowles, Dyer, Symes.
Booked: Weir, Sharps.
Goal: Edwards, 17.
Referee: Richard Clark
Attendance: 3,595 (Burton 173)