Gavan Holohan scored on his full debut for Pools as they picked up a point at Aldershot Town on Saturday and condemned their hosts to National League relegation.
The Irishman capped an impressive performance when he nodded home Luke James’ inviting cross ten minutes from time to earn Pools a deserved point against The Shots at The EBB Stadium.
Holohan’s selection was one of two changes made by Craig Hignett for the game, as he replaced the ill Liam Noble in midfield while Mark Kitching was preferred at left-back.
Pools started the game in determined fashion and began knocking the ball about with confidence against a nervy-looking Aldershot side who were careless in possession in the opening minutes.
Holohan snatched the ball with a great tackle just inside his own half before driving forward with it; as the home defence backed off, the Irishman dropped his shoulder and dribbled in to the area but his shot was charged down.
Pools drew confidence from that and continued to press their hosts and at the end of a sustained period of pressure, Nicky Featherstone fed the ball to Nicke Kabamba who turned his man but saw his left-foot drive blocked.
Then on 10 minutes the hosts made their first foray in to Pools territory when Regan Booty escaped in to space down the left. He fed a low ball in to the box to Bernard Mensah whose shot was blocked by Fraser Kerr but it rolled free along the six-yard line where Reece Grant fired home.
Pools were initially undeterred by the setback and could have been back on level terms almost immediately had Shots keeper Will Mannion not got across to his right quickly to paw Luke Molyneux’s curling free-kick round the post.
However, the hosts were slowly improving and Scott Loach had to be alert to tip the ball over his bar from Adam McDonnell’s cross-shot from the right.
An error from David Edgar allowed Grant to run towards the edge of the area where he was held up well by Kerr and, when he laid the ball square, John Goddard lifted a shot well over the bar.
There was a wonderful chance for Kabamba to bring Pools level after Ryan Donaldson freed Peter Kioso down the right and the full-back lifted a lovely first time cross in to the front post but Kabamba’s header dropped wide.
Donaldson was then caught in possession by Goddard but the midfielder couldn’t find the target with his shot after driving forward with the ball.
Loach had to be at his best early in the second half when Mensah’s drive was blocked and fell kindly in to the path of Grant and the Pools keeper had to make himself big to deflect the shot away to safety.
There was a moment of great fortune for Aldershot at the other end when Molyneux raced away down the right before sending a low ball across to Holohan who teed up Nicky Featherstone only for the midfielder’s powerful goalbound drive to hit Kabamba and stay out.
David Edgar had to be in the right place to block a shot from Scott Rendell, while Molyneux tested Mannion with a fierce drive which stung the keeper’s palms.
James was causing all kinds of problems for Town down the left hand side and he could have found the leveller when he broke the offside trap only for the home defence to get back in time to thwart the Pools front man.
Molyneux cleverly jinked in to the area and let fly with a powerful low shot which Mannion did well to block with his feet, while Holohan then saw a shot blocked as Pools kept the move alive.
The goal finally arrived ten minutes from time and it was no surprise to find James at the heart of it. Having chased through down the left he then got the ball back from Kabamba and had the presence of mind to chip a ball across to the far post where Holohan nodded home from close range.
More good work from James down the flank provided Molyneux with a chance but his shot was blocked as Pools then set about trying to find a winner.
And Molynuex could have got it when his low free-kick from 22 yards was brilliantly turned away by Mannion down low to his right.
James Rowe came off the bench to strike a low shot on goal for the hosts as they tried to find the goal they needed but Loach held on to it and their hopes were extinguished.
Full Time: Aldershot Town 1 Pools 1
Attendance: 1589 (158 Pools)
Booked: Donaldson (69)
Aldershot Town: Mannion, McDonnell (Rowe 85), Howell, Rendell, Bernard, Booty, Mensah, Menayese, Finney, Grant (McDonagh 78), Goodard (Berkeley-Agyepong 85).
Subs Not Used: Cole, Gallagher.
Pools: Loach, Kioso, Kerr, Edgar, Kitching, Featherstone, Donaldson, Holohan (Bale 87), Molyneux (Muir 83), James, Kabamba.
Subs Not Used: Catterick, Anderson, Amos.