Laird seals dramatic comeback for Boro

Below-par Boro show spirit to earn point against Hartlepool

Stevenage 2

Harrison 69

Laird 88

Hartlepool United 2

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Hartley 35

Boyd 40 (pen)

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SCOTT Laird’s dramatic 88th-minute header salvaged a point for Boro after being two goals down at half time.

On a day where Graham Westley’s side were far from their best, goals from Peter Hartley and Adam Boyd looked to have sealed Hartlepool’s first win of the season as early as half time with Boro seemingly having no prospect of getting back into the match.

However a more spirited second half display and goals from Byron Harrison and Laird gave the home side a share of the spoils.

The visitors had the first sight of goal in the third minute when Andy Monkhouse’s low cross from the left found Nish six yards from goal but his effort was blazed over Chris Day’s crossbar.

Boro settled quickly and enjoyed a decent 15-minute spell in which they created a couple of excellent chances. The first of which came on 13 minutes when a superb through-ball into the right channel found Byron Harrison who showed good strength to shrug off Evan Horward. The Boro striker took his time before picking out the onrushing Lawrie Wilson who saw his powerful shot from eight yards magnificently saved by Pools goalkeeper Scott Flinders.

Harrison himself had a sight of goal five minutes later but his header from Scott Laird’s floated centre was well held by Flinders.

Boro’s early chances came as a result of some excellent, composed, passing play that United found difficult to cope with. However Mick Wadsworth’s side began to deny Boro as much time and space on the ball and were able to put the hosts under far more pressure than they had done in the opening 20 minutes.

Boro had a lucky escape when a Colin Larkin cross was only cleared as far as Richie Humphries whose vicious volley took a couple of deflections before time seemed to stand still as the ball bounced onto the crossbar before Day punched clear.

Despite Pools having the better of the play, Boro had another good chance to go ahead when Wilson did superbly to reach the byline after beating Horwood and Hartley. The winger’s teasing cross found an unmarked Harrison on the penalty spot but his header drifted agonisingly over the bar onto the roof of the net.

United’s opening goal arrived on 35 minutes and it couldn’t have been simpler. Horwood’s inswinging corner found Hartley at the far post who rose highest to head past Day from close range. The manner of the goal was disappointing from Boro’s point of view as they are usually strong at defending set-pieces, but the quality of Horwood’s delivery proved too good.

Hartlepool were now enjoying the majority of possession and they went two goals to the good five minutes before the break from the penalty spot after Jon Ashton had brought down Colin Nish. Ashton was caught out by Larkin after trying to usher the ball out of play, and when Nish collected the loose ball and burst into the area, Aston clumsily tripped the United frontman leaving the referee little option but to point to the spot. Boyd duly stepped up to send Day the wrong way.

The second half started evenly with Boro seeing plenty of the ball without ever really finding the killer pass in the final third.

The match followed this pattern until the introduction Chris Beardsley with 25 minutes left to play. Boro looked a lot stronger up front and it was no surprise that Beardsley had a hand in his side’s first goal. A long kick from Day was chased down by Beardsley into the far left-hand corner and his cross was only cleared as far as Harrison who turned and finished low past Flinders from eight yards.

All of a sudden Boro sensed they could get something out of the match, as too did the supporters who were now in full voice.

Beardsley was leading the line well and chasing down absolutely everything. He came close to grabbing the equaliser with just over 10 minutes to go when Wilson’s cross picked out the back-peddling Beardsley whose header bounced just wide of the far post.

He was at the centre of attention again four minutes later when he appeared to be brought down by Flinders inside the area but appeals for a second penalty of the match fell on deaf ears.

Boro kept up the pressure, though, and were rewarded with a deserved equaliser with two minutes left on the clock. Substitute Robin Shroot’s corner to the near post was met by Laird whose bullet header gave Flinders no chance.

The Boro supporters were overjoyed after witnessing an excellent second-half comeback from their team.

Four minutes of injury time couldn’t produce another Boro goal, but they deserved their point after showing fantastic spirit to haul themselves back into the match when all had seemed lost 25 minutes earlier.

Stevenage (4-4-2): Day; Edwards, Ashton, Roberts (c), Laird; Wilson, Bostwick, Mousinho (Shroot 60), Long (Myrie-Willaims 54); Charles (Beardsley 64), Harrison.

Subs not used: Julian, Reid.

Hartlepool (4-4-2): Flinders; Austin, Collins (c), Hartley, Horwood; Larkin, Murray, Humphreys, Monkhouse; Nish, Boyd (Poole 64) (Haslam 89).

Subs not used: Brown, Rafferty, Holden.

Attendance: 2,831 (291)

Referee: Mr D. McDermid

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