Southend United 1 Hartlepool United 1: Pool saved by Walker's goal

Brad Walker enhanced his growing reputation with a stunning strike to keep Hartlepool United on the coattails of play-off rivals Southend United

Hartlepool United manager Colin Cooper
Hartlepool United manager Colin Cooper

Brad Walker enhanced his growing reputation with a stunning strike to keep Hartlepool United on the coattails of play-off rivals Southend United.

With Colin Cooper's side six points adrift of the seventh-placed hosts heading into the game, they could ill afford a loss in their quest for a swift return to League One.

And, thanks to 17-year-old Walker's breathtaking volley to cancel out Barry Corr's opener, they duly emerged with a deserved point to keep them in the promotion hunt.

Despite the game being played out on a bog of a pitch, the two teams served up an entertaining contest and a game of pinball inside the visiting area very nearly led to an early breakthrough, Will Atkinson's cross cannoning between defenders Darren Holden and Sam Collins before landing in the grateful grasp of Scott Flinders.

Pools, though, were very quickly on the offensive and Walker drew a save from Daniel Bentley when he smashed low and on target from 20 yards.

But it was the home side who should have been in front on 16 minutes. John White hoisted a centre to the penalty spot where Anthony Straker rose to loop his header beyond Flinders. But with the ball seemingly headed for the back of the net, it clipped the underside of the crossbar, landed in the mud on the goal-line and allowed Flinders to smother.

It was end-to-end stuff and Pools full-back Holden escaped the attention of White down the left before squaring for Walker whose first-time drill was repelled by Bentley in the home goal.

Southend, though, did seize the advantage two minutes before the break when Kevan Hurst attacked the by-line before pulling back for Corr who improvised to flick home from six yards.

It was a well-worked goal but nonetheless a soft concession from a Pools perspective, the visiting defence having allowed the Blues to pick them off with minimal resistance.

And it was the hosts who threatened soon after the break, Ben Coker's in-swinging corner forced on goal by the brow of Adam Thompson with Flinders drawn into an instinctive save.

For all of their early promise Pools had faded as an attacking force and Middlesbrough loanee Luke Williams was a shadow of the player who has shone in recent weeks.

In contrast, Southend's Straker was causing all manner of problems and only a strong glove from Flinders denied him a deserved goal with the winger having taken aim from a narrow angle.

But with the talented teen Walker in their ranks Pools were never going to be out of the contest and his leveller was a beauty, cushioning a half clearance on his chest before dispatching a measured volley into the top corner from 20 yards.

Cooper's boys had Holden to thank for protecting parity when, on 65 minutes, he slid to scoop Hurst's goal-bound drive from the line before scrambling clear.

And Collins did exactly the same in stoppage time when he hacked away after Corr had headed into the goalmouth.

 

SOUTHEND UNITED: Bentley; White, Phillips, Thompson, Coker; Atkinson, Timlin, Leonard; Hurst, Straker (Eastwood 72), Corr. Subs: Smith, Laird, Payne, Williams, Gomis, Barnard.

Goals: Corr 43

Booked: Phillips, Leonard

 

HARTLEPOOL UNITED: Flinders; Richards, Collins, Burgess, Holden; Walker, Walton, Monkhouse (Compton 86), Williams; James, Harewood. Subs: Rafferty, Duckworth, Sweeney, Franks, Barmby, Poole.

Goals: Walker 59

Booked: Monkhouse

Referee: Keith Hill (Hertfordshire)

Attendance: 4,361

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