Hartlepool 0 Walsall 0 - match report
Walsall had to settle for a point in a hard-fought encounter at an icy Victoria Park.
Dean Smith's League One play-off chasers applied plenty of second-half pressure against a struggling Hartlepool side.
But the Saddlers could not force home keeper Scott Flinders into a meaningful save in a game of precious little goalmouth incident.
Walsall gave the hosts an early scare when a corner from Andy Taylor caught in the wind and forced keeper Scott Flinders to turn the ball nervously around his near post.
But Hartlepool threatened too when the ball dropped for Andy Monkhouse just inside the penalty area and his shot was blocked well by James Chambers on the edge of the six-yard box.
And there was a further close shave for Smith's side when some half-soaked defending gave possession to Evan Horwood, whose 20-yard volley fizzed just wide.
Pools threatened again when Horwood galloped forward on the left and crossed for veteran forward Steve Howard, who leapt above Andy Butler but headed straight at loanee Sam Johnstone, making his debut in the Walsall goal.
On 26 minutes the home side attacked down the opposite flank through Neil Austin, whose cross found Antony Sweeney, but his header was kept out by a decent save from Johnstone.
But the Saddlers weathered that storm and began to grow in confidence as half-time approached with both Sam Mantom and Craig Westcarr trying their luck from distance.
Walsall took charge after half-time but they could not threaten the Hartlepool goal until the 65th minute through substitute Ashley Hemmings.
A minute after stepping off the bench, he collected a raking crossfield ball and drove towards goal before lashing a shot narrowly wide.
With time running out the Saddlers had a decent opening when Jamie Paterson intercepted a poor pass and raced towards the Hartlepool goal.
But, with substitute George Bowerman screaming for a pass, Paterson opted for a shot which was blocked.
The visitors compiled a decent move in stoppage time but it ended with Sam Mantom firing well over the bar.
By Steve Madeley
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