Hartlepool 1 Walsall 1
Ten-man Walsall claimed a point at Hartlepool despite having captain Andy Butler controversially sent off.
Ten-man Walsall claimed an impressive point at Hartlepool despite having captain Andy Butler controversially sent off.
The skipper was dismissed – along with Nathan Luscombe – five minutes before the break after the pair slid in on the halfway line.
But Butler was unlucky to walk, as it was Luscombe who had jumped in with two feet.
The flashpoint came after the Saddlers took the lead through Jon Macken's third minute penalty, which was cancelled out by Colin Nish's goal after goalkeeper Jimmy Walker's error.
Walker fumbled goalkeeper Scott Flinders' long clearance and Nish tapped in from almost on the line.
The goals started a madcap game as referee Paul Tierney struggled to control the two teams from the outset.
Will Grigg returned after his outing for Northern Ireland under-21 team against the Faroe Islands in mid-week, while Anton Peterlin got the nod to replace the suspended Adam Chambers.
And the Saddlers were ahead after just three minutes, when Paul Murray went in high on Mat Sadler and referee Tierney pointed to the spot.
It was their first penalty since Darren Byfield's successful conversion in a 2-1 win over Huddersfield in September 2009 and Macken coolly sent Flinders the wrong way.
But the Saddlers only held the lead for two minutes, after Walker misjudged Flinders' long clearance and Nish bundled home.
Chances continued to flow and Oliver Lancashire had to be alert to clear Nolberto Solano's cheeky back-heel, before Peterlin steered an 18-yard drive wide.
A lull took control until five minutes before the break, when referee Tierney stunned both teams with two red cards for the same tackle.
Butler and substitute Luscombe, who had only been on the pitch 20 minutes after replacing ex-Villa ace Solano, dived in with the Hartlepool player off the ground.
The official dismissed Butler, as Luscombe lay prone on the turf, before also sending off the midfielder.
Half-time failed to cool the tempers as Macken, Richard Taundry and Hartley were booked after a flare-up, following Macken's tackle on Murray.
The striker was replaced by Alex Nicholls on the hour as the game threatened to boil over, before Taundry tested Flinders with a low drive.
But the Saddlers were being stretched by their hosts and Walker denied James Poole one-on-one, after Peterlin lost possession 18 yards out.
Substitute Ryan Jarvis volleyed wide with his first touch and Richie Humphreys' header had Walker scrambling as Hartlepool pressed.
The Saddlers looked content to take the point and took it, despite some late Hartlepool pressure.
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