Pools were held to a 1-1 draw by Bradford City at The Coral Windows Stadium in their final pre-season warm-up ahead of the big kick-off.
It was the hosts who got on the front foot from the off and almost snatched the lead inside a couple of minutes when Billy Clarke’s incisive ball freed Billy Knott on the right of the area but his drilled finish was palmed away by Scott Flinders at his near post.
Pools’ former City player Jack Compton was close to putting his name on the scoresheet moments later when his free-kick from the right corner of the penalty area flashed through the box and just wide of the far post.
The game was just starting to settle down in to a good rhythm when Pools were forced in to a change; former Pools man Gary Liddle’s thunderbolt struck Sam Collins square on the back of the head and after a few minutes of treatment the defender was helped from the field to be replaced by Darren Holden.
Home midfielder Mark Yeates tried his luck from range but fired wide after the game restarted, while Clarke could have done better with a header after getting on the end of Alan Sheehan’s cross but it looped harmlessly in to Flinders’ grasp.
Sheehan took one on from long range himself shortly afterwards but it was well over and Michael Duckworth had to concentrate on the near post to usher James Hanson’s header away from the goal line.
Liddle could have opened the scoring when the ball fell kindly after his initial shot had been blocked but the midfielder dragged his second effort badly wide and Pools escaped the danger.
Yeates tried another effort from well out which whistled wide of Flinders’ post while Pools could have snatched a lead just before the break when Holden’s inviting cross from the left was just taken off the head of Luke James in the middle.
Full-back Sheehan was first to try his luck upon the restart but he was denied twice as his first well-struck shot was charged down by Austin, before Walker got in the way off his follow-up effort.
Pools threatened at the other end when Walker fizzed a ball in to Harewood’s feet and he played it up to Luke James but the front man couldn’t quite wriggle in to enough space to shoot and City survived.
Colin Cooper’s side came close to opening the scoring when Compton’s floated corner from the left was inadvertently flicked on by City striker Hanson, but Walker couldn’t over the ball enough to head home and it went just over the bar.
Former Pools loan man Matty Dolan volleyed high over the bar after pressure from Hanson and Yeates in the Pools area, before Flinders clawed away a goalbound effort from Clarke who got free on the edge of the box.
Matthew Bates showed his class to prevent a certain goal for the home side when he bravely dived in front of Clarke’s shot from six yards after skilful set-up play by Knott in the Pools penalty area.
Walker almost responded with a wonderful goal at the other end though; after slaloming his way through the City defence, his deflected shot was brilliantly saved by Pickford away to his right.
The young midfielder wasn’t to be denied though and moment later, when the ball fell to him twenty yards out, he drilled a typically ruthless finish in to the bottom left hand corner of the net to give Pools the lead.
It was an advantage that was wiped out almost immediately unfortunately for Pools as a deep cross looped up to the right side of the box where Clarke kept his eyes on it to volley low under Flinders and level things up at 1-1.
The shots did more of the pressing in search of a winner in the closing stages but Pools remained organised and resolute at the back, limiting City to shots from long range – substitute Mo Shariff with the best of them with his first touch which was held by Flinders.
In a moment of danger four minutes from time a wicked cross from the left caused problems in the Pools penalty area and Bates was fortunate to see his attempt at a headed clearance cannon back off his own bar to safety.
And Flinders produced a moment of quality to secure Pools a draw on 88 minutes when he extended every inch of his frame to finger-tip Shariff’s goalbund dipping volley on to the cross bar and over
Full Time: Bradford City 1 Pools 1
Bradford City: Pickford, Darby, Dolan (Dolan), Davies, Sheehan, Liddle, Hanson, Clarke (Shariff 85), Knott (Meredith 75), Yeates (McBurnie 68), McArdle (Routis 68).
Subs not used: Urwin, Coulson, Hassall, Campion, Heaton.
Pools: Flinders, Duckworth, Collins (Holden 17), Bates, Austin, Parnaby (Richards 71), Walker, Miller, Compton (Franks 66), Harewood, James.
Subs not used: Rafferty, Jones, Nearney, Smith, Rowbotham, Hawkins.