Gavan Holohan celebrated signing a new contract by scoring
his ninth goal of the season as Pools came from behind to claim a point at
The midfielder steered home a delightful finish eight
minutes in to the second half to cancel out Isaac Olaofe's early opener for the
hosts on an afternoon when much of the talk remained on the Coronavirusoutbreak.
A larger than usual crowd found their way to Gander Green
Lane for the contest with Crystal Palace, Southampton and AFC Wimbledon fans
among those who were attracted along in the absence of any action for their ownclubs.
Dave Challinor made three changes to his starting eleven,
bringing Rob Harker back in to attack, while Josh Hawkes was handed his first start
since Boxing Day and Macauley Southam-Hales returned at right-back aftermissing last week's defeat to Ebbsfleet United with concussion.
Pools got off to the worst possible start though. Keeper Ben
Killip loitered too long in possession on the edge of his six-yard area and his
attempted clearance was charged down by the alert Olaofe, sending the ballhurtling in to the roof the net.
It took Challinor's men a little while to clear their heads
and the dangerous David Ajiboye almost added a second on ten minutes when he
brilliantly dribbled his way through the Pools defence before being denied by afine save from Killip.
Olaofe hammered another effort just over the bar from the
edge of the area as the hosts continued to make much of the running in theopening stages.
The best Pools mustered was a blocked shot from Josh Hawkes but
they almost got a leveller on 28 minutes when Holohan wriggled in to the boxfrom the left only to see his powerful drive blocked by Ben Goodliffe.
The half-time break gave Challinor a chance to have his say –
and his words seemed to have the desired effect as they came out looking muchlivelier at the start of the second half.
Southam-Hales came close to a leveller when his overhit
cross almost turned in to a fortunate goal but it dropped on to the roof of thenet as home keeper Nik Tzanev scrambled backwards.
At the other end there was some good defending from Gary
Liddle and Timi Odusina to thwart Ajiboye after he again ran through on goal toshoot.
However, Pools were level on 53 minutes when Hawkes sent a
pass across to Luke Molyneux on the right and he picked a ball through a crowded
area in to the feet of Holohan 14 yards out and he swept it across Tzanev andin to the top left corner of the net for 1-1.
Sutton seemed annoyed by the setback and came close to
instantly restoring their lead when Omar Bugiel got in to space on the left ofthe box but his shot deflected wide of the far post.
Pools were in control for a period after that though, and
boss Challinor made his intent to go on and win the game clear when heintroduced former Sutton man and top scorer Gime Toure on the hour.
Good chances remained at a premium though despite Pools
looking the more likely and it was the hosts who finished the stronger in the closing
minutes, almost stealing in front when Harry Beautyman stretched to reach adeep cross at the far post but he saw his shot hit the post.
Ajiboye thought he had won it right at the death when he
drove a shot back across goal towards the top corner but Liddle somehow gotback to glance the strike over the bar with his head.
It was an extraordinary piece of defending from Liddle whowas making his 299th Pools appearance – it's anyone's guess when theon-loan centre-back will get the opportunity to make his 300th.
Full Time: Sutton United 1 Pools 1
Sutton United: Tzanev, Barden, Goodliffe, John, Wyatt, Randall, Milsom, Beautyman, Ajiboye, Bugiel (Dundas 87), Olaofe (Eastmond 79).
Subs not used: Rowe, Brown, Kealey.
Booked: Bugiel. Barden.
Pools: Killip, Southam-Hales, Odusina, Liddle, Kitching, Featherstone, Holohan, Donaldson (Mafuta 80), Hawkes, Molyneux (Keena 71), Harker (Toure 61).
Subs not used: Beeney, Richardson.
Booked: Hawkes, Kitching.
Referee: Lewis Smith.