Town U18s maintained their unbeaten start to their Youth Alliance North East title defence with a hard-fought 2-2 draw with Hartlepool United on Saturday.
Town started brightly and with just three minutes on the clock could have taken an early lead when Elijah Samuels knocked down a ball forward into the path of Josh Brodella who drove past three Hartlepool defenders only for the keeper to turn away his low effort.
On 16 minutes some fast link up play between Jack Bray, Samuels and Brodella released Alfie Lee who drove towards the edge of the box and unleashed a powerful drive that hit the inside of the post and away to safety.
Hartlepool looked bright and energetic in possession, but it was Town who counter-attacked well on 21 minutes after Lee had won possession midway inside his own half. He passed forward to Bray who found Brodella in space who then drove forward again, before returning it to Bray who had continued his run into the box who played it across goal for Samuels but his low effort was superbly saved by Pools keeper before being scrambled clear again.
Despite numerous opportunities for Town it was Pools that went ahead on 31 minutes when neat interplay between the Hartlepool forwards released the number 11 who fired home past Frankie Shepherd.
It did not take Town long to respond, however, as some clever play down the left released James Moorby who was brought down for a free kick on the byline just outside the box. From the free kick, Ollie Nicholson delivered a pinpoint cross to Smalley at the back post who headed home and make it all square at half time.
30 seconds after the restart Town found themselves behind again from a dangerous cross into the middle of the box which was met by the Pools winger to steer the ball into the far corner.
Two minutes later Town thought they were level - Lee pressed high and won the ball, before releasing Samuels who drove at the defender and played a one-two with Lee before squaring the ball to Brodella to tap home, only for the assistant referee to flag
As Town went in search of the equaliser, the game became stretched with Hartlepool playing on the counter attack.
Town continued to create chances and in the 65th minute, another good move between Lee, Samuels and Brodella opened the goal up for Brodella but he shot straight at the keeper. A minute later, and once again, Lee found Brodella to release a 3v2 situation, a lovely reverse ball from Brodella found the overlapping Lucas Barnes whose square ball for the waiting Obarotimi and Samuels, was gratefully smothered by the Pools keeper.
On 72 minutes Samuels picked the ball up and drove towards the left hand side of the box and hit the ball across goal with his left foot which again just rolled past the far post.
The game continued to flow from end to end with both sides lacking the final pass to punish, but on 87 minutes Town finally got a deserved equaliser. A corner from Nicholson into the centre of the 6 yard box was parried by the goalkeeper into the path of Lewis Smalley who fired home his second of the game for a deserved point.
Town: Shepherd, Barnes (Robinson), Moorby (Pow), Taylor, Smalley, Etherington, Nicholson, Lee, Brodella, Bray (Obarotimi), Samuels
Not used: Mooney, Hindle