Pools and Gillingham will replay their FA Cup First Round tie after Matthew Bates’ men produced a high-quality performance to take a goalless draw from their trip to Priestfield Stadium.
Few could argue that Pools were at least worthy of a replay after creating all of the game’s best chances and it was perhaps indicative of the standard of their display that the hosts were booed from the field at half-time and full-time.
Bates – without Peter Kioso and Andrew Davies through suspension – decided to adopt a 4-4-2 formation for the tie, bringing Kenton Richardson in at right-back and restoring Luke James to the attack alongside Marcus Dinanga.
The hosts began the game on the front foot, putting Pools under pressure with a number of long diagonal balls which were well dealt with.
One ball in to the box from Luke O’Neill found danger man Tom Eaves in space at the back post but he nodded his effort wide, while striker partner Brandon Hanlan almost got in to an area to shoot before Carl Magnay challenged.
As the half progressed Pools grew in confidence and, to the backdrop of a growing sense of anxiety from the home crowd which seemed to unsettle their team, Matthew Bates’ men began to look a real threat.
Donaldson and McLaughlin were really impacting on the game from the flanks, while Featherstone and Noble were both finding their range with passes in to the dangerous front two of James and Dinanga.
Dinanga did well to spin in to space on the halfway line to set-up a menacing counter-attack for Pools, feeding James who in turn knocked it on to Donaldson who fed it inside for Featherstone but his well-struck shot from range flew wide.
More great football from Pools set up a glorious chance for Noble just afterwards; the ball was brilliantly sent in to McLaughlin on the right of the area and his low ball across found Noble arriving on the end of it to take a touch and fire a shot on goal which was well saved by Tomas Holy.
Another incisive move down the left provided another opportunity just before the break when Donaldson expertly slipped a ball between the defence to send Mark Kitching in to the area but the full-back’s ferocious shot was blocked by a defender as it flew towards goal.
Gillingham emerged with more fire after the break and could have stolen in front within sixty seconds when Hanlan spun away skilfully down the left but his prod across goal went just the wrong side of the far post.
For all the hosts upping of the tempo, Pools continued to hold their own and Featherstone had a chance to let fly again at the other end but this time it was held by the Gills’ giant keeper Holy.
Pools were causing problems for their hosts with quick passing and good movement and engineered another great opportunity when Dinanga lifted a cross in to the box from the right which was chested down in to the path of Donaldson but his low left-foot shot was saved.
Dinanga then had a chance of his own when he received the ball with his back to goal before spinning rapidly to shoot but his effort flew just wide of the target.
Noble smashed an effort too high after more good work from Featherstone and Donaldson, while Gillingham struggled to test Scott Loach – Mark Byrne’s shot from the edge of the box which was dragged wide was as good as it got for the hosts.
The Gills pressed a little more as time ran out but, in truth, Pools coped with their attacks comfortably with Magnay and Anderson in dominating form in the centre of defence.
And so the two teams will square up again a week on Wednesday in a replay to decide who will progress to Round Two.
Full Time: Gillingham 0 Pools 0
Booked: Noble (54)
Attendance: 2224 (126 Pools)
Gillingham: Holy, O’Neill, Ehmer, Zakuani, Hanlan (List 74), Eaves, Charles-Cook, Fuller, Oldaker, Byrne, Ogilvie (Bingham 46).
Subs Not Used: Hadler, Parrett, Parker, Nasseri, Simpson.
Pools: Loach, Richardson, Anderson, Magnay, Kitching, Donaldson (Newton 90), Noble, Featherstone, McLaughlin, James (O’Neill 71), Dinanga (Muir 77).
Subs Not Used: Catterick, Murphy, Woods, Hawkes.