Hartlepool United’s goal drought ends on rainy night

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AT least last night’s downpour precipitated the end of a seven-hour goal drought for Pools.

Gary Liddle’s first-half strike provided a sip of relief to those who feared the barren spell was set to drag on.

And so, in taking positives from a game in which the fine margin between defeat and victory meant the draw was probably a fair result, Liddle’s effort and the culmination of that 419-minute goal drought must be top of the list.

And credit to the bandaged scorer – he’d only just gingerly staggered back into the action following a nasty clash of heads when he found himself chipped in on goal by Neil Austin on 38 minutes.

The subsequent finish, a neat tuck under goalkeeper Stuart Nelson, suggests a pre-match whack on the head might be the way forward for the former Middlesbrough trainee.

Ryan Donaldson, the Newcastle United striker, had been recruited this week and was handed a full league debut by Wadsworth.

He created one first-half opening for Andy Monkhouse, who fired into the side-netting and, with a little more match sharpness, could have bagged a debut goal when Joe Gamble flashed a ball through the six-yard area after the break.

And it was that failure to locate a second goal which ultimately proved the difference between three points and one.

But, from an unmarked position on 69 minutes, Lee Hughes drew parity with the most simple of finishes.

Wadsworth said: “The draw was fair and I’ve no complaints.

“I thought we did okay in the first half – we were the better team and got a good goal.

“In the second half they played in a more direct manner.

“We’ve been troubled by that before where we get a little bit too deep.

“But I was quite pleased that in the end we got to grips with it and didn’t buckle – in the past we might have gone under.

“But Hughes is just terrific in and around the box.”

We said to the players at half-time that if you lose concentration he’ll punish you and that happened.”

The equaliser came amid a spell of relentless County pressure and a second appeared on the cards.

But it was the hosts during the last quarter of an hour who fashioned the better openings, Neil Austin smashing a volley over the bar from 12 yards, substitute Adam Boyd caught cold with his first touch when a corner flashed through the penalty box and, in the dying seconds, Monkhouse seeing a dipping, goal-bound volley tipped over by a scrambling Nelson.

The late rally apart, it’s unmistakable that Pools are still falling some way short of the performances which ran parallel to those five straight victories over December and early January.

But the reformation of Wadsworth’s favoured centre-back partnership of Peter Hartley and skipper Sam Collins at least went some way to ensuring there was no repeat of Saturday’s calamitous collapse at Peterborough.

Indeed, both Wadsworth and Hartley themselves noted afterwards that, in days gone by, Pools would probably have lost last night.

He added: “Gary Liddle was groggy and a little bit concussed at half-time and the medical staff were a bit worried about him so we had to take him off.

“It was disappointing because he’d done really well and scored a great goal.”

Pools don’t now play until next Tuesday when they travel to Oldham Athletic.

, who drew 1-1 at Walsall last night.