FULL-TIME: Accrington Stanley 0 Hartlepool United 0

HEAD BOY: Jonny Franks has a go in the first half at the Crown Ground. Picture by FRANK REID
HEAD BOY: Jonny Franks has a go in the first half at the Crown Ground. Picture by FRANK REID
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HARTLEPOOL United played out a goalless draw away at Accrington Stanley in Sky Bet League Two to keep them five points off the top seven.

While there was plenty of commitment on show it was lacking in quality and results elsewhere means Pools stay 10th, three places outside the play-offs.

It was a frantic first opening 45 minutes but neither side did enough to take the lead at the break, with several shots wide or high over the bar.

Pools showed plenty of fight and commitment and just needed to show a little bit more composure in the final third, while Stanley had also enjoyed periods of pressure.

Accrington had the better of the second half with Scott Flinders forced into making a couple of saves but in the end the draw was probably a fair result.

Experienced striker Marlon Harewood dropped down to the bench for the game against third-bottom Stanley.

Pools, currently five points off the play-off positions in 10th place, were beaten 2-1 at Wycombe Wanderers at the weekend.

Lancashire side Accrington, managed by former Premier League striker James Beattie, play at the Storefirst.com Stadium where they won 3-1 on Saturday against table-topping Chesterfield with dangerman Lee Molyneux bagging a first-half hat-trick.

Pools started the match in a 4-4-2 formation, with Jack Barmby and Andy Monkhouse playing wide right and left respectively, with a front two of Franks and Luke James.

Accrington stormed up field and won a corner after just 30 seconds but James Gray failed to take advantage of the resulting set piece.

Pools hit back well, with James being direct and purposeful from the off - winning two corners in the opening ten minutes with two clever pieces of play.

Holding midfielder Simon Walton was also amongst the action, shooting over the bar twice from the edge of the area, within the first 15 minutes, he had time and space to make more of the second attempt.

It was a fast and furious opening to the League Two encounter with the home side buoyed by their weekend win and Pools looking to make amends for the Wycombe defeat.

The first clear chance of the match came for Pools with Darren Holden’s long throw headed on by Andy Monkhouse towards Franks, but his tame header was easily held by Marcus Bettinelli.

Barmby was booked after 18 minutes, for a foul on the left-hand touchline.

He was followed by Brad Walker for a foul on Gray just before the half hour as the Accrington forward bore down on goal.

The resulting free-kick from 25-yards was whipped inches over the top of the bar by Molyneux.

The home side started building a sustained period of pressure and Will Hatfield forced a close-range save from Scott Flinders, with the ball spinning wide for a corner.

Franks then combined well with Monkhouse down the left-flank but the former Middlesbrough forward’s shot was defected wide of the post by Barmby.

Captain Sam Collins became the third Pools player to be booked, harshly, for a foul on Gray on the left hand touchline in the 32nd minute. Collins had just stood his ground.

Walton saw his third effort sail over the bar from the edge of the area as the half came to a close.

It was entertaining at times with plenty of huff and puff but little clear cut chances in the opening 45 minutes.

Half Time: Accrington 0 Pools 0

Accrington had the better of the first 10 minutes of the second half, with Laurence Wilson hitting the top right hand corner of Flinders’ crossbar with a misplaced cross.

On-loan Boro defender Christian Burgess almost nodded Pools into the lead but failed to get a strong enough connection with Walton’s free-kick from the left-hand touchline.

Pools had again started the second-half slowly, similar to the weekend defeat at Wycombe Wanderers, with the team struggling to get forward.

Hatfield then clipped a shot just wide of Flinder’s right hand post in the 65th minute as the home side started to crank up the pressure.

Adam Buxton screwed a shot from distance just wide in the 70th minute, while Laurence Wilson was getting far too much time and space down the left-hand flank.

Time after time Wilson bombed forward with Pools - sitting too deep - seemingly unable to get time on the ball.

In the 72nd minute Josh Windass turned well in the box but his low shot was well gathered by Flinders.

There was far too many long balls pumped up to the front pairing of James and Franks and what service they did receive was poor.

Pools best chance of the second half came in the 76th minute - James wriggling free down the left wing before cutting the ball back across to Monkhouse who threw himself for a diving header from six-yards.

There wasn’t enough power on the ball though and Bettinelli saved it easily.

There was abreak in proceedings while Dean Winnard and Monkhouse recieved treatment after colliding heads. During the break James Poole came on for Franks, who had a quiet evening.

Cooper then looked to Antony Sweeney from the bench, the experienced midfielder replacing Barmby and moments later Marlon Harewood entered the fray in place of 19-year-old James.

Substitute Poole could have snatched the win in the final stages but just slipped inside the area and Harewood’s follow-up was well blocked.

In the end a draw was probably a fair result in Lancashire and Pools keep their noses in play-off contention.

Full Time: Accrington 0 Pools 0

Accrington (4-4-2): Bettinelli, Joyce (C), Aldred, Winnard (Atkinson, 90), Webber (Naismith, 70), Hatfield, Molyneux, Gray (Odejayi, 81) Wilson, Windass, Buxton.

Subs Not Used: Dawber, Clark, Mingoia, Bowerman.

Booked: Naismith.

Pools (4-4-2): Flinders, Richards, Collins(C), Burgess, Holden, Walton, Walker, Monkhouse, Barmby (Sweeney, 86), James (Harewood, 88), Franks (Poole, 81).

Subs Not Used: Rafferty (gk), Hawkins, Compton, Rodney.

Booking: Barmby, Walker, Collins.

Referee: David Coote (Nottinghamshire)

Attendance: 1,196 (Pools 175)