Defiant Pools stormed back from two goals down to claim a point during a captivating encounter against Sutton United at Gander Green Lane.
Craig Hignett’s mantra for attacking football was once again to the fore throughout an astonishing afternoon as both sides created enough chances to have won a dozen matches.
The only surprise that there weren’t more than the four goals scored though a point apiece was probably just reward for the players who provided almost incessant entertainment for specators.
Pools’ line-up showed three changes for that which started against Bromley as Fraser Kerr was handed a debut in the centre of defence, Mark Kitching was preferred at left wing-back and Luke James returned from a calf strain.
There was an early chance for the hosts who worked an opening down the left as Tom Bolarinwa wriggled in to space to let fly but Scott Loach did well to block his low drive.
In a high tempo opening period to the game it was the home side who looked the more threatening as they put balls in to the box and put pressure on Pools’ new-look backline.
As the game wore on, Craig Hignett’s men began to show their own teeth though and they could have gone in front on 15 minutes. Liam Noble’s right-wing corner was headed goalwards by Nicke Kabamba where it was blocked before Myles Anderson’s follow-up touched the bar on its way over.
That seemed to shake the hosts’ confidence and Pools were suddenly in the ascendancy. A poor clearance from keeper Ross Worner was a symptom of Sutton’s nerves and was brilliantly intercepted by Josh Hawkes but his first shot was blocked by a recovering defender and his second – from an extremely tight angle – flew across the goal line and wide.
Noble’s delivery was causing particular problems from Paul Doswell’s outfit and another corner was strongly met by Anderson but this time his header was blocked on the line by Worner.
However, Sutton then cleared their heads with the opening goal on 27 minutes when a long ball over the top freed Roarie Deacon through on goal and he made no mistake with a clinical low finish to Loach’s right.
There was a wonderful opportunity for Pools to get back on level terms just seven minutes when another loose pass at the back from Sutton allowed Kabamba to play Noble through on goal. Worner was out quickly to block the midfielder’s shot and Kabamba’s follow-up was cleared off the line as the home side escaped.
There was still time for the dangerous Gime Toure to come close to doubling Sutton’s lead just before the break with an acrobatic effort from a tight angle which was cleared off the line by Kabamba.
The chances kept on coming at the start of the second period and only a wonderful full-stretch save from Loach denied Harry Beautyman after the midfielder had unleashed a powerful volley from the edge of the area.
However, Loach had no answer on 57 minutes when Pools tried hard to resist wave after wave of Sutton attacks but finally conceded the second goal when Toure’s shot from twenty yards took a deflection on its way in to the corner of the net.
It was crucial that Pools scored next and seven minutes later they got the slice of luck they needed when Kitching got past his man down the left and attempted to stand the ball up to the far post only to see it deceive Worner and drop in to the net and give Hignett’s men renewed hope.
Pools were thankful to Loach for more heroics when he stayed big to deny Deacon before Anderson’s incredible last-gasp challenge somehow prevented Craig Eastmond rolling home the rebound.
That moment proved pivotal because Pools drew level with 15 minutes left. A cross in from the left from the superb Nicky Featherstone wasn’t dealt with well at the back post and, when it fell loose to Luke James, the front man rammed home the equaliser on the volley.
Even then neither side were ready to settle. James could have put Pools in front but for a wonderful save from Worner before Kabamba volleyed over from close range as Sutton wobbled.
Noble came even closer to winning it three minutes from time after some good build-up by substitute Luke Molyneux who cut the ball back across the area for Noble who side-stepped the defender before seeing his shot deflected agonisingly wide.
Perhaps the draw was a fair reflection though and means that both sets of players could be satisfied with their efforts as they were applauded off at the final whistle.
FULL REPORT TO FOLLOW….
Full Time: Sutton United 2 Pools 2
Booked: Anderson (21), Hawkes (77), Noble (90)
Sutton United: Worner, Bennett (Dobson 85), Thomas, Davis, Collins, Beckwith, Bolarinwa (Williams 76), Eastmond, Beautyman, Deacon, Toure (Ayunga 80).
Subs Not Used: Green, Bellikli
Pools: Loach, Donaldson, Cunningham (Molyneux 66), Kerr, Anderson, Kitching, Featherstone, Noble, Hawkes, James, Kabamba.
Subs Not Used: Catterick, Amos, Hawkins, Muir.