A bullet header from Jay McEveley mid-way through the second half helped his Tranmere Rovers side steal a point in a 1-1 draw against Hartlepool United.
Nicky Deverdics opened the scoring for the hosts early in the second half, whipping a 30-yard free-kick into the bottom corner, but McEveley’s goal just minutes later ensured Rovers took home a well-deserved point.
Although it was an even match, a point does neither side any favours in their respective quests to gain promotion back to the Football League – Hartlepool remain 14th and Tranmere fall one spot to 16th.
The game started off slowly, with neither side able to create any clear-cut chances of note until a quarter of an hour into the affair, when Dylan Mottley-Henry pounced on a mistake in the Pools midfield and drove at goal.
With two players available for a pass, the young loanee chose to go alone, and forced a decent save from United keeper Scott Loach.
Moments later, Rovers goalkeeper Scott Davies was also called into action for the first time, saving well from Deverdics’ shot and then a Jonathan Franks header as Hartlepool began to press.
As the first half continued, the Pools continued go in search of the opener, and Franks again hit a pot-shot from range that didn’t test Davies, before Lewis Hawkins sliced a half chance harmlessly wide with the ball bobbling around in the Rovers penalty area.
Deverdics took aim from 30 yards out as the half ticked to a close, but Davies was again more than up to the challenge and tipped the ball wide for a corner, from which the 30-year-old produced the biggest moment of the half, thwarting a Rhys Oates diving header from point blank range to ensure Rovers went into the break level.
Steve McNulty was replaced by Jay McEveley at half time after picking up a knock during the first period, but the change didn’t immediately pay dividends as Hartlepool took the lead after just seven minutes.
McEveley was penalised for a foul just outside the Tranmere area, and the impressive Deverdics drilled the ball into the bottom corner to beat Davies and give his side a well-deserved lead.
But going behind seemed to spark something in Rovers that had been missing for the first 52 minutes, and they immediately began to go in search of an equaliser that materialised almost instantly.
From a Liam Ridehalgh corner, the substitute McEveley rose highest to bullet a header into the back of the Hartlepool net to make it 1-1.
After that, United rung the changes with three substitutions in seven minutes. Carl Magnay, Devante Rodney and Michael Woods all made way for Michael Ledger, Connor Simpson and Blair Adams respectively.
But despite the interchanges, it was Tranmere who looked most likely to find a winner. James Norwood took a shot from the edge of the box that was well saved by Loach, before a goal-mouth scramble almost resulted in the Pools stealing an undeserved winner.
Ollie Norburn then had a shot almost deflected into the path of Andy Cook, but the ball whizzed inches beyond the toe of the forward.
And with the final kick of the game, Connor Jennings had what was perhaps the best chance of the game. The ball fell to him from six yards out after Ridehalgh’s excellent cross, but he blazed his effort over the bar when it was perhaps easier to score.
The final whistle blew just seconds later and both sides had to settle for a point that was probably evenly deserved – United shaded the first period while Rovers had the better chances in the second half.
Tranmere now look ahead to a home tie with Halifax, while Hartlepool travel to Torquay on Saturday.
Tranmere XI: Davies; Ridehalgh, Sutton, McNulty (McEveley), Duggan; Harris, Norwood, Norburn, Mottley-Henry, Jennings; Cook.
Hartlepool XI: Loach; Magnay (Ledger), Laing, Donnelly, Deverdics, Featherstone, Woods (Adams), Hawkins, Rodney (Simpson), Oates, Franks.