Hartlepool 0 Pompey 0

Michael Drennan in action against Hartlepool. 'Picture: Joe Pepler
Michael Drennan in action against Hartlepool. 'Picture: Joe Pepler

Iain McInnes claimed a first prize of £500 in the Hartlepool raffle.

He then handed it to the hosts’ chief executive, Russ Green, as a donation to club funds.

At least somebody of Pompey persuasion has won something at Victoria Park in recent times.

Another goalless draw ensured honours were shared for a third successive season at the end of the 317-mile trip.

Except, whereas a real sense of achievement was attached to the previous two 0-0 scorelines, Saturday was a source of disappointment.

A touch severe perhaps considering it represented a point on the Blues’ travels, lifting them into eighth spot.

With 10 matches of the league season gone, they remain well-positioned to challenge for all four promotion spots on offer.

Yet there would have been mixed feelings among the 501 away fans as they filtered out of the stadium following the stalemate – and rightly so.

No doubt about it, this is one match at the home of the Pools that Andy Awford’s men should have won.

For that reason alone, there was an overriding feeling of frustration come the final whistle and no doubt the five hours and 45 minutes trek home.

It was February 2013 when caretaker boss Guy Whittingham’s side halted a run of nine successive defeats at the Pools amid a brave defensive showing epitomised by Sam Sodje.

Last season it was Awford in temporary charge, a worthy point stopping the rot following five consecutive defeats – a run during which Whittingham was sacked.

Gutsy and admirable performances, often on the back foot, during bleak relegation struggles of recent times.

These days, however, it is a very different Pompey which exists, with greater expectations and loftier ambitions in terms of league aims.

A win would have been a realistic target for the visitors, yet instead they added another Victoria Park shut-out to the lengthening list.

Colin Cooper’s men entered the fixture in the League Two relegation zone facing a scrap for their Football League existence as the season continues to unfold.

A side struggling to recruit, a manager under pressure and a match with the lowest attendance of the three encounters to reflect the natives’ growing unrest.

Unquestionably a highly-winnable game for Awford’s side, who have responded well since their lacklustre Southend showing.

They had their opportunities too, particularly during the opening 30 minutes, yet once again the concerning lack of cutting edge reared its head.

Instead it was another goalless draw, meaning not since August 1979 when Steve Bryant, John McLaughlin and Colin Garwood netted in a 3-0 win, have Pompey scored at Pools’ ground.

In truth, Hartlepool themselves never threatened to end the recent run of deadlocks – they didn’t even muster a shot on target.

Granted, they finished well in the final 10 minutes, putting the visitors’ defence under sustained pressure to occasionally fray the nerves.

Such attacking instincts, though, were dealt with superbly by a defence marshalled outstandingly by Paul Robinson to ensure Pompey’s keeper had little to deal with.

That final flourish aside, it was Awford’s men who largely bossed possession but crucially during their purple patch in the first half, failed to make any superiority count.

And that is the worry at present over the Blues’ make-up – goal-scoring continues to be a lingering issue.

Hartlepool represented a fifth match in the last eight in all competitions they have failed to find the net.

Only Carlisle, Oxford, Cheltenham, Luton and, of course, the Pools have scored fewer in League Two this season.

But, encouragingly, still Pompey find themselves in eighth spot and poised to challenge for any number of promotion connotations.

Solving their current ailments in front of goal could firmly establish them as top-three contenders, such is the fine line.

Michael Drennan was recruited in the week with that very answer, reuniting him with the club, following a decent spell at the end of last term.

He was on the bench at Hartlepool as Awford named the same side for a third successive match, the rotation policy long since packed away.

The Aston Villa striker was joined among the substitutes by Nigel Atangana, fit again following the hamstring injury which ruled him out of the previous four games.

No place in the match-day 18 then for Miles Storey, Ricky Holmes, Nick Awford and Ben Close, representative of the squad strength Awford is able to call upon this season.

His side started the fixture strongly too, dominating the opening 30 minutes as the hosts struggled to keep them at bay.

Driven by the energy and attacking imagination of Jed Wallace, the visitors could have comfortably been out of sight during that encouraging period.

On eight minutes Wallace delivered a cross which fell to Patrick Agyemang, only for the striker to send a right-foot half-volley well wide of the post.

Then on 16 minutes Craig Westcarr pounced on a loose ball inside the box to crash a first-time shot on the run over the bar.

They represented two glorious opportunities and more was to come as Pompey continued to apply pressure to the home defence.

Wallace then drove in a low cross from the right which was missed by Agyemang as he attempted to turn it home from close range, adding to the air of frustration.

Matthew Bates almost let in Agyemang by heading the ball past his on-rushing keeper, only for it to run out of play for a corner, while moments later Jack Whatmough had a close-range effort hacked away.

The breakthrough never arrived, though, and there were more howls from the travelling support in the 52nd minute with their best chance of the game went begging.

Wallace clipped a clever pass through and Westcarr could only drive his right-foot shot straight against the keeper’s body.

Drennan was introduced from the bench and there were a few late Wallace shots, but mainly the second half was a disappointment in both quality, entertainment and attacking capabilities.

So a Victoria Park goalless draw it was then – yet again.

Let’s not dismiss a useful point and a rise of three places as a consequence, but it was still a frustrating encounter.