Defences on top as Reds stretch unbeaten run to four games
Reds were held to a goalless draw by Hartlepool at a chilly Checkatrade Stadium on an afternoon when defences were on top.
Chances were few and far between. Paul Jones tipped an effort from Nathan Thomas, Pools’ biggest threat, onto the bar but skipper Sonny Bradley should have won it with the last effort of the game when his diving header from close range went wide when the fans in the South Terrace were expecting the net to bulge.
Reds named the side which had won 1-0 at Luton last week and with Hartlepool in decent form themselves there was expectation of a decent contest.
But the only word to describe the first half was scrappy. Reds failed to seriously test Trevor Carson in the Pools’ goal and although Paul Jones spent long periods similarly underemployed the visitors did have the best chance of the half.
It came on 21 minutes when Thomas worked a precious yard of space and let fly from 20 yards and his effort beat Jones but whistled just past the left-hand post.
Other than that, and a booking for Jake Carroll for hacking down Gwion Edwards, it was a poor first half with a bobbly pitch helping neither side’s efforts to play the ball on the deck. Lyle Della-Verde went closest for Reds just before the break but his header from Edwards’ cross lacked power and bounced wide of the post.
Thomas went even closer 11 minutes into the second half to breaking the deadlock. Reds made a hash of clearing a shot from Billy Paynter and when the ball fell to the midfielder he struck a curling effort which Paul Jones touched onto the bar before Crawley cleared.
Reds had their best chance to date on 65 minutes. Edwards led a counter-attack and played a clever ball into Liam McAlinden’s path. Carson parried his powerful shot and then pushed the loose ball out for a corner as it threatened to roll over the line.
Midway through the half Mark Yates made a double change with Simon Walton and Shamir Fenelon replacing Andy Bond and McAlinden.
And Fenelon, who had scored in both his previous home appearances, immediately made an impression but was unable to get his shot away on two occasions when well placed.
Reds brought on Gavin Tomlin for Della-Verde in the last ten minutes to try and find the spark and there were two great chances in stoppage time.
The visitors nearly nicked the three points in stoppage time when sub Brad Walker curled a free kick into the near post which Jones pushed away.
But Reds had an even better chance with the last action of the game. Tomlin teed up Bradley five yards out but he somehow directed a free header wide of the post with Carson beaten.
It was that sort of afternoon, the compensation for Reds is that their unbeaten run stretched to four games.