Pools were made to settle for a draw in their first outing of pre-season as a dogged Billingham Town gave them a good workout at Bedford Terrace on Saturday.
The hosts got their noses in front early in the second half of a competitive affair in the sunshine but Pools got level through trialist Harry Middleton’s long-range effort, though they couldn’t find a winner.
Matthew Bates opted to mix up his squad with the plan to play two entirely different elevens in each half against the Northern League side and he also took the chance to run the rule over a Middleton and fellow trialist Connor Higgins.
The first real chance of the game fell to trialist Connor Higgins but he could only fire wide, while Louis Laing tested the Town keeper with a low drive following a determined run out of defence with the ball.
Lewis Hawkins stole the ball high up the field and charged in to the box but could only strike a volley too high and Conor Newton steered another effort just wide after good work from Jake Cassidy and Peter Kioso on the right.
Michael Woods had arguably the best chance of the opening half when he chased in to the box on the end of a good Cassidy flick-on but his powerful effort flew well over the bar and the sides went in goalless at the break.
Town went in front seven minutes in to the second period when Pools gave up possession cheaply in midfield and Craig Hutchinson’s shot took a deflection before looping up over Ryan Catterick and in to the net.
Pools suffered a further blow when they lost Paddy McLaughlin to injury just afterwards, with Middleton reintroduced to the action from the bench.
Myles Anderson glanced a header wide from a left wing corner and Niko Muir saw his near post header well tipped over by the keeper after a good delivery from Ryan Donaldson.
Pools leveller came on 75 minutes when Middleton tried his luck with a swerving effort from twenty yards which flew in to the top corner – a great strike to bring the scores level.
Middleton saw another effort well tipped over the bar by the keeper and Mark Kitching struck a shot wide after a good through ball by Nicky Featherstone.
Liam Noble played a good one-two with Muir on the edge of the box but fired a powerful shot just wide and Josh Hawkes came close to winning it right at the death but his long-range effort was just too high.
Full Time: Billingham Town 1 Pools 1
Pools First Half: Loach, Miller, Davies, Laing, Middleton, Kioso, Newton, Woods, Hawkins, Cassidy, Higgins.
Pools Second Half: Catterick, Richardson, Magnay, Anderson, Donaldson, Noble, Featherstone, Kitching, McLaughlin (Middleton 55), Hawkes, Muir.