Liam Noble scored a debut goal as Pools turned in an encouraging opening day performance but were forced to settle for a point in the heat at Maidstone United.
Both goals came inside the final five minutes of a first half dominated by Pools, with Noble stroking home a leveller just sixty seconds after Blair Turgott had put the hosts in front from the penalty spot.
Matthew Bates handed debuts to five of his summer signings and set-up with an aggressive 3-4-2-1 formation which deployed Jake Cassidy in attack, supported by Luke James and Niko Muir.
And Cassidy looked too hot to handle for a hesitant Maidstone rearguard during the opening 45 minutes, causing problems aplenty for centre-backs Will De Havilland and Alex Finney.
The front man carved out the first real opportunity of the afternoon when he ran on to a ball over the top on the left side of the box but keeper Alex Worgan saved well with his feet.
Cassidy was in again moments later when another incisive ball from Noble sent him away but this time he couldn’t generate the power in his shot to trouble Worgan.
The Stones were struggling to keep tabs on Cassidy and he bullied a defender to win the ball on the right win before dribbling inside to shoot but again Worgan got behind it.
The home side’s first effort was a tame one, coming from danger man Turgott who burst inside from the right but his shot was straight at Scott Loach who gathered comfortably.
Noble was pulling the strings for Pools in midfield and showed great vision to loft a ball to the far post where Ryan Donaldson ghosted in to meet it on the volley but Worgan did well to turn it round the post.
Given Pools had enjoyed the better of the opening period it was hard to take when Referee Alan Dale gave the hosts a penalty four minutes before the break, harshly penalising Niko Muir for a high foot to give Turgott the chance to send Loach the wrong way from the spot.
However, much has been made of the improved spirit in the Pools camp this pre-season and that was underlined when they got back on level terms within a minute. Muir and James fought for possession inside the area, before the latter brought it under control to wriggle inside and tee up Noble who stroked a composed finish beyond Worgan.
The second half started at a very high tempo and the game looked open as both sides went forward with purpose, Pools coming close to going in front when Donaldson’s ball in was cleverly flicked-on by James in to the path of Muir who drilled a ferocious shot inches wide with Worgan reduced to spectator.
At the other end it required a determined block from Andrew Davies as Maidstone threatened through Turgott, while Cassidy had to clear off the line when Joe Quigley met a right-wing corner with a firm header.
Peter Kioso came close to celebrating his professional debut with a goal to remember when he struck a low shot through a crowded area from twenty-five yards which looked to have Worgan beaten but home skipper Stuart Lewis cleared off the line.
Loach was then called in to action to make his first real saves of the afternoon, first parrying well from substitute Jack Paxman’s curling effort before also turning away Seth Nana Twumasi’s drive as Maidstone began to ask more questions.
The tempo died down towards the closing stages as the sapping heat began to take its toll but The Stones could have snatched a winner right at the death when Turgott slipped a ball to the back post but Carl Magnay produced a superb, last-gasp clearance to deny substitute Shamir Mullings the chance to tap home.
Full Time: Maidstone United 1 Pools 1
Attendance: 2,599 (346 Poolies)
Booked: Cassidy (24)
Maidstone United: Worgan, Twumasi, De Havilland, Finney, McLennan, Muldoon (Wynter 90), Lewis, Phillips (Paxman 62), Turgott, Loza, Quigley (Mullings 69).
Subs Not Used: Efete, Richards.
Pools: Loach, Magnay, Davies, Kioso, Donaldson, Noble, Featherstone (Newton 88), Kitching, Muir (Hawkes 69), James (Dinanga 80), Cassidy.
Subs Not Used: Anderson, Woods.