Hartlepool have never beaten the Fleet but were only minutes away from a magnificent seventh attempt before Dominic Samuel pounced on his debut to equalise.
Not that it would have been a magnificent win for Pools who would have got away with daylight robbery had they managed to take the three points. Their 90th minute strike appeared to have won it against a Fleet side who twice came back with goals at the beginning and end of this match – and who looked the more impressive team throughout.
Four changes from the home meeting with Dagenham saw league debuts for both Samuel and Myles Kenlock as Fleet sought to protect their commendable record against Hartlepool. Two divisions separated the sides last season but you wouldn’t have known that from the performance Dennis Kutrieb’s men put up in an exciting encounter.
Fleet were the brightest in attack at the outset, with Greg Cundle advancing to gain a corner and Dominic Poleon’s strength winning the ball back to invite a shot that Hartlepool crowded out for another set-piece.
But two minutes later, Hartlepool scored what was their first ever goal against the Fleet at home when David Ferguson found Mani Dieseruvwe in midfield and he fired a low effort along the ground past Mark Cousins.
That had the home side’s tails up but Fleet responded ever so well and it took just another three minutes. Samuel began the move with a sweeping crossfield pass to Matthias Fanimo. He cut inside and returned the ball for Billy Clifford running on behind him who delivered a precise shot through a few bodies that went whizzing into the corner of the goal.
The visitors went close again on 15 minutes as fantastic footwork from Fanimo had the Pools defence in a spin and he found Cundle on the left who struck a good shot on target that Joel Dixon saved.
An elegant period of play on 19 minutes with Craig Tanner overlapping well eventually saw a pass into Poleon who fired on goal but Samuel cut across the flight of the ball and his touch alongside a few Pools bodies in the way saw the chance drift just wide.
Fleet had the initiative and more precise play down the left had Samuel playing in Cundle whose ball across ended with another fine shot, this time from Fanimo which was held by Dixon. Tanner then found Samuel who kept Dixon busy with another effort that required the goalkeeper’s intervention.
As the half-hour ticked around, Fleet were playing a pleasing, confident possession game in and around the Hartlepool midfield and Josh Wright carved out another opportunity, turning a pass towards Samuel but his touch 12 yards out was a little heavy.
Kenlock made a 60-yard run in between several Hartlepool players but just ran out of steam as his efforts deserved more from the attempted delivery into the box that was bundled clear by the home side.
Hartlepool wrestled some possession back from the Fleet towards the end of the half but inflicted little damage of note and the last action for the red shirts was left to Tanner, whose deceptive 20-yard free-kick required a low, scrambling save from Dixon.
Kenlock swept up from Dieseruvwe as the goalscorer threatened to go one on one against Cousins but the Fleet were more than satisfied with their opening 45 minutes when the whistle came a moment later.
The second period opened with the first yellow card of the afternoon when Clifford upended Tom Crawford, but moments earlier the same Hartlepool player clearly dragged Fanimo over just inside the home box without the referee deeming anything wrong with it.
It was a quieter half but livened up on the hour when Mustapha Olagunju found himself in a wonderful position and his low drive at close-range was blocked by Dixon, with Cundle following up and his shot, too, was kept out.
Dixon, continuing to earn his corn in goal, produced another save as Clifford twisted and turned into a shooting position with the home side rocking.
Cousins had to be alert to race out and pluck a deep, dangerous cross out of the air before a white shirt could get on the end of it with 10 minutes left before another Olagunju-Cundle combo created another chance for the Fleet but Cundle’s effort lacked power.
Cousins was again in the action on 88 minutes when the home side finally exerted some real pressure and the Fleet goalkeeper showed superb reactions to get down quickly to Crawford’s first-time smash.
But he couldn’t keep out the next effort when Hartlepool took a giant stride towards the three points with a sucker punch a minute from the end. Dieseruvwe got away on the break and outpaced the Fleet defence, sending a pass into substitute Jake Hastie’s path and he made no mistake past Cousins.
But the Pools had reckoned without Fleet’s comeback mentality and into the fifth minute of stoppage time, Tanner’s free-kick was headed on by Nathan Odokonyero. Olagunju met it at the far post and got it across the six-yard box for Samuel to stab in at the opposite post.
Even then the action didn’t abate, Olagunju with a cheeky but excellent chip towards the top corner that Dixon just about managed to gather. The to-and-fro basketball nature of this game kept up right to the final, eighth minute of time added on when Dieseruvwe got a touch on Brody Patterson’s cross and Cousins spread himself instinctively to brilliantly get in the way of the Pools top scorer.
Still we weren’t done as Samuel might have grabbed a second with a powerful effort on goal saved by Dixon, with action returning to the other end where Luke O’Neill swept away the final Pools attack.
And that was finally that to record Fleet’s second successive draw in the far north and more importantly show the steely resolve through his side that Dennis Kutrieb will have been delighted to see ahead of two big home matches to come.
EUFC: Cousins, O’Neill, Kenlock, Olagunju, Wright, Clifford (Domi 73), Cundle, Fanimo (McQueen 70), Tanner, Samuel, Poleon (Odokonyero 85). Subs: Edser, Amoo
HUFC: Dixon, Johnson, Onariase, Mattock (Cooke 57), Ferguson, Featherstone, Crawford, Agyemang (Patterson 77), Wreh (Hastie 69), Dieseruvwe, Hancox. Subs: Mazfari, Dolan, Wallace
Attendance: 3,594 (75 EUFC)
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