Tom Eastman on target as Colchester United begin with an away draw

Tom Eastman. broke the deadlock after four minutes at Hartlepool

Tom Eastman. broke the deadlock after four minutes at Hartlepool - Credit: Archant

Hartlepool United 1 Colchester United 1

Colchester United kicked off their new season in League Two – their first time in the fourth tier for 18 years – with an away draw at Hartlepool this afternoon.

The U’s took just four minutes to open their account for the new season, with Tom Eastman producing the finish of a striker.

Centre-half Eastman crashed home a rising shot, into the roof of the net, after Hartlepool had failed to clear a corner.

Hartlepool, starting their fourth consecutive season in League Two, grabbed the equaliser in the 27th minute.


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Sammie Szmodics was adjudged to have fouled Nathan Thomas in the box, and experienced striker Billy Paynter, last season’s Pools’ leading scorer, slid the penalty low into the bottom corner of the net, sending keeper Sam Walker the wrong way.

Both sides missed good chances to win it, but a draw was just about the fair result.

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It was a hectic opening, even before Eastman’s early strike.

Kurtis Guthrie, one of four players making their full U’s debuts – the others were new club captain Luke Prosser, midfielder Craig Slater and left-back Lewis Kinsella – had a shot blocked inside the first minute.

Pools had penalty appeals waved away shortly afterwards, and when play switched to the other end, Szmodics had a goalbound shot deflected behind for a corner, following good build-up by Chris Porter.

But the U’s scored from the ensuing corner, with Eastman the unlikely marksman into the roof of the net.

Walker, playing his first league game for 15 months, following a long-term knee injury, had one regulation save to make, from defender Rob Jones’ weak 18-yarder.

But Walker had little chance with Pools’ equaliser, as Paynter smartly tucked away a 27th minute penalty to the bottom corner of the net.

On the half-hour mark Pools, with their tails up, threatened again through striker Padraig Amond.

Poacher Amond, who had played for his previous club Grimsby against Braintree Town in last season’s National League play-off semi-final, sent a header skidding wide of target.

Right winger Guthrie burst clear on a rare U’s break, on 34 minutes, only to be clearly tugged back by left-back Jake Carroll, who was duly booked for the cynical challenge.

The home side should have taken the lead in the 36th minute, only for Amond to sky his shot harmlessly over the bar from, Thomas’ cross. He had just Walker to beat, and so should have scored.

Two minutes later and Thomas caused more problems down the left wing. This time he slipped past right-back Richard Brindley and whipped over a low cross-cum-shot which Walker did well to parry. The ball rolled to safety, with no Pools striker on hand to bundle home the rebound.

Into the second half and Slater made room for himself before lifting a shot over the bar from 15 yards out in the 49th minute, while Szmodics slid a low shot agonisingly across goal and wide in the 51st minute.

Tom Lapslie made a vital block to prevent Pools from taking the lead, just before the hour mark.

Right-back Carl Mangay slipped a pass through for Lewis Alessandra, who had turned before lashing in a goalbound shot which was superbly charged down by Lapslie, deep inside the penalty area.

At the other end, Denny Johnstone, on as a 61st minute substitute for Porter, to make his U’s debut, was inches away from restoring the lead for the visitor.

Johnstone met Slater’s free-kick with a downward header which reared off the turf and bounced up and over the bar, from eight yards out.

Guthrie squandered a great chance to put the U’s 2-1 up, on 76 minutes. The ex-Forest Green Rovers front-runner was through on goal, following substitute Dion Sembie-Ferris’ pass, but directed his shot the wrong wide of the near post with just keeper Trevor Carson to beat.

With two minutes remaining, a thunderbolt from Thomas warmed Walker’s hands, but the U’s keeper was equal to it, while at the other end Sembie-Ferris failed to get enough weight behind an injury-time effort.

Squads

HARTLEPOOL: Carson, Magnay, Nsiala, Jones, Carroll, Featherstone (sub Woods, 72), Alessandra, Hawkins, Thomas, Amond (sub Deverdics,77), Paynter (sub Laurent, 87). Unused subs: Bartlett, Bates, Oates, Richards.

COLCHESTER: Walker, Brindley, Prosser, Eastman, Kinsella, Lapslie, Slater, Szmodics (sub Bonne, 87), Guthrie, Porter (sub Johnstone, 61), Wright (sub Sembie-Ferris, 70). Unused subs: Brangrove, Kent, Loft, Vincent-Young.

Referee: Paul Tierney

Attendance: 4,055 (238 away fans)

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