Rovers 2-2 Hartlepool
Bristol Rovers shared the points in a 2-2 draw with Hartlepool United at the Memorial Stadium this afternoon.
It was an uneventful start to the game, but Rovers took the lead through Matt Harrold on 35 minutes, only for Hartlepool to equalise within a minute.
The visitors then took the lead just before the break, with danger man Luke James bagging his second of the match.
Rovers dominated the second half, but had to wait until the dying minutes of the game for John-Joe O’Toole to rescue a point.
John Ward made two changes to the side that lost 2-0 to Dagenham and Redbridge last weekend.
Mitch Harding came in to partner Matt Harrold up front, with Tom Lockyer coming back into the centre of midfield.
Ellis Harrison and Ollie Norburn drop to the bench, and Eliot Richards and Andy Bond took the wide positions in midfield.
It was a slow opening ten minutes with from both teams, with neither side creating an opportunity.
The first half chance from Rovers came following a surging run from Tom Parkes, who found Michael Smith. Smith’s cross into the box fell to Harding, whose header went wide.
Then at the other end Simon Walton had a shot from distance that was pushed round the post by Mildenhall and out for a corner.
Then there was a let off for Rovers as Jonathan Franks hit the post from inside the box; John-Joe O’Toole eventually cleared the loose ball.
Rovers then took the lead in the 35th minute through Matt Harrold. The move started with Lee Brown who made a good run from his own half.
He played the ball to Eliot Richards, whose cross into the box found Matt Harrold, and his low shot fired into the back of the net.
The joy for Rovers was short lived, as Hartlepool found themselves back on level terms within a minute.
Luke James was allowed too much space and fired home from outside the penalty area.
As Rovers sought to retake the lead, Brown crossed the ball into the box to Andy Bond, but his shot from close range was deflected over the bar.
Poor defending allowed Hartlepool to take the lead just before half time. After a scramble in the goalmouth, James scored his second from close range.
It must have been an impressive half time team talk from John Ward and his staff, as Rovers looked a completely different team after the break.
The home side started the second half much brighter, with Richards moved up front with Harding on the wing.
Rovers began to pile on the pressure from the off and Richards saw a good effort deflected on to the bar.
Harrold then had a couple of chances, with one shot straight at the keeper from the edge of the area.
He then got on the end of a cross from Bond, but his sliding shot from close range flew narrowly over the bar.
Rovers kept pushing for an equaliser, and a Harding shot from outside the area was easily dealt with by the visitor’s keeper.
Richards then got his toe onto a cross from Bond, but the ball flew just wide of the upright.
Rovers then made their first change of the game, with Ellis Harrison coming on for Harding.
Harrison quickly got into the game providing a cross into the box, but the glancing downward header from Richards went just wide.
Moments later, Richards fired the ball across the face of goal, but the shot was deflected over the bar from very close range.
John-Joe O’Toole then struggled to close down James, who was looking for his hat trick, and Mildenhall pulled off a good save to deny him the match ball.
As time ticked away, Rovers continued to press for an equaliser, and spent most of their time camped out in the Pools penalty area.
A long range shot from O’Toole went wide, but it was the midfielder who was to grab the point for Rovers in the dying minutes.
Substitute David Clarkson did well to win the ball and set up Brown, who made a run into the box. His pass to O’Toole was powered in to the back of the net.
Although Rovers will be disappointed not to have got all three points, it was a positive finish going in to next Friday’s trip to Southend.
Rovers: Steve Mildenhall, Michael Smith, Tom Parkes, Mark McChrystal, Lee Brown, Andy Bond, John-Joe O’Toole, Tom Lockyer, Eliot Richards (David Clarkson), Mitch Harding (Ellis Harrison), Matt Harrold
Substitutes: Matt Gill, Oliver Norburn, Conor Gough, Pat Keary, Josh Southway.
Hartlepool United: Scott Flinders, Neil Austin, Jack Baldwin, Michael Duckworth, Christian Burgess, Matty Dolan, Jonathan Franks (Sam Collins), Simon Walton, Jack Compton, Andy Monkhouse (James Poole), Luke James
Substitutes: Andy Rafferty, Antony Sweeney, Jordan Richards, Darren Holden, Nialle Rodney
Referee: Charles Breakspear