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Pools and Boro play out pre-season draw
HARTLEPOOL and Middlesbrough played out a goalless draw in this afternoon's pre-season friendly at Victoria Park.
Pools boss Colin Cooper will be the happier with the result, although the hosts were indebted to goalkeeper Scott Flinders, who produced a string of fine second-half saves to keep the scoresheet blank.
Flinders saved Lukas Jutkiewicz's 74th-minute penalty, and also frustrated Marvin Emnes and Mustapha Carayol as Boro were unable to follow up Wednesday's 2-0 win at Morecambe.
Scott McDonald did not make the short journey to Victoria Park, and the striker has almost certainly played his final game in a Middlesbrough shirt.
Talks are under way that should result in a termination of the Australia international's contract with one year still to run, although the exact details of the financial agreement are still to be finalised.
McDonald would then be free to join alternative employers, with Millwall already having made an approach.
There was only one change to the Boro side that started at Morecambe on Wednesday night, with Jonathan Woodgate replacing Andy Halliday and Ben Gibson switching to left-back.
However, there was a tactical change in the starting line-up, with Tony Mowbray reverting to a 4-4-2 formation that featured summer signing Jozsef Varga on the right of midfield and Emnes playing as an orthodox striker.
Cooper's Pools selection provided an indication of his thinking ahead of the start of the League Two season, with Peter Hartley lining up at left-back and Andy Monkhouse partnering Luke James in attack.
Pools kick off their League Two campaign at Rochdale in a fortnight's time, and Cooper will have been pleased with the efforts of his players, particularly in a first half in which they created the best early chances.
Luke James came close to breaking the deadlock in the 17th minute, but Jason Steele tipped his header over the crossbar after he met Andy Monkhouse's left-wing cross.
Pools threatened again from a corner shortly after, but Peter Hartley was unable to direct his 12-yard header on target.
Boro's first effort of note came midway through the first half, with Grant Leadbitter receiving the ball from Carayol and firing in a 25-yard drive that was well saved by Flinders.
Flinders was called into action again shortly after to tip another Leadbitter effort around the post, and the Pools goalkeeper completed a hat-trick of saves when he blocked Jutkiewicz's 38th-minute effort after the ball had reached the striker courtesy of a complete mis-kick from Emnes.
Emnes scored a wonderful goal at Morecambe on Wednesday night, and the Dutchman should have doubled his pre-season tally six minutes before the interval.
A poor back-pass from Simon Walton left Emnes one-on-one with Flinders, but his shot thudded straight into the goalkeeper's chest.
For the second game in succession, Mowbray's only half-time alteration saw him switch his goalkeepers, with Jayson Leutwiler replacing Steele. Cooper made three changes, with James Poole, Darren Holden and Bradley Walker entering the fray.
Boro continued to have the upper hand after the interval, although chances remained few and far between.
Emnes drilled over the crossbar after cutting in from the left flank, and should have done better after he was afforded a clear run on goal in the 63rd minute.
Leadbitter's through ball released him into the inside-right channel, but just as he was about to shoot, he was denied by an excellent sliding tackle from the impressive Jack Baldwin.
The Pools back four were prepared to lay their bodies on the line all afternoon, and Neil Austin produced another superb block to keep the scoresheet blank midway through the second half.
Varga touched Carayol's right-wing cross into Ben Gibson's path at the back post, but Austin blocked the defender's strike from the edge of the six-yard box.
Boro's best chance of a breakthrough came with 17 minutes left as Antony Sweeney clattered into Emnes in the area to concede a penalty.
Lukas Jutkiewicz stepped up, but Flinders produced an excellent save as the striker drilled his spot-kick straight down the middle.
Flinders, who was in fine form all afternoon, was at it again shortly after, denying Jutkiewicz again with his legs after Carayol's through ball had unlocked the Pools defence.
And the Pools goalkeeper, who was the man-of-the-match by a distance, produced another excellent save to thwart Jutkiewicz for a third time with five minutes left.
HARTLEPOOL (4-4-2): Flinders; Austin (Richards 86), Collins, Baldwin, Hartley (Holden 46); Franks, Walton (Walker 46), Sweeney, Compton (Rodney 75); James (Howard 75), Monkhouse (Poole 46).
Sub (not used): Rafferty (gk).
MIDDLESBROUGH (4-2-3-1): Steele (Leutwiler 46); Parnaby, Woodgate (Burgess 61), R Williams, Gibson; Whitehead, Varga; Emnes, Leadbitter, Carayol; Jutkiewicz.
Subs (not used): Bennett, Reach, Smallwood, Ledesma.
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