Josh Hawkes’ second-half penalty earned Tranmere Rovers 1-1 draw against Hartlepool United at Prenton Park in Sky Bet League Two on Saturday afternoon.
Callum Cooke’s opener late in the first-half saw Rovers behind at half-time before Hawkes’ leveller versus his old club secured a share of the points.
Manager Micky Mellon made two changes from Tuesday night’s home victory over Crawley Town, with Brad Walker and Chris Merrie coming into the starting line-up in place of Lee O’Connor and Logan Chalmers.
Former Rovers favourite Connor Jennings was named as a starter for Hartlepool ahead of the game.
With six minutes played, it was Hartlepool who had the first sight of goal. Play dropped to James Sterry from distance, the defender struck a low left-footed strike through a crowd of players which landed narrowly wide of Joe Murphy’s bottom left-post.
Rovers should have been ahead inside 11 minutes. Merrie clipped a well-timed ball over the top of the visitors’ defence for Harvey Saunders who could only hit his first-time effort tamely straight at goalkeeper Jakub Stolarczyk.
Tranmere were forced into a 17th minute change after Paul Lewis had to be replaced by Jake Burton.
Midway through the half, Rovers had another chance. Regan Hendry found Merrie, who played an excellent ball to Hawkes on the left, however his right-footed effort was palmed away to safety by Stolarczyk.
Up the other end, Mohamad Sylla’s left-footed shot towards Murphy’s top right-corner was well kept out by the Rovers stopper.
Murphy had to be alert again to save low from Jennings’ snapshot, as the North-East outfit grew into the contest.
John Askey’s Pools were ahead on 44 minutes. Daniel Kemp’s flighted pass found an unmarked Cooke in the box, who got in-between Josh Dacres-Cogley and Tom Davies to dink the ball right-footed beyond Murphy.
In first-half added-time, an opportunity went begging for Rovers. Saunders profited from Stolarczyk’s poor clearance from a goal kick to slide in a through pass to Burton, but the Hartlepool goalkeeper redeemed his mistake by thwarting the effort well by spreading himself.
Tranmere had to make another injury-enforced change three minutes on from the break after Walker took a knock, with Jay Turner-Cooke coming on in his place.
Rovers survived a scare as Joe Grey’s half-volley from Sterry’s cross went over Murphy’s crossbar.
Dacres-Cogley’s neat play down the right created a chance for Ethan Bristow, but his attempt went over the crossbar and into the Argyle Satellite Taxis Kop stand.
On the hour, Merrie steered a header from Hendry’s right-sided corner, which Euan Murray managed to thump the ball to safety up field.
Pushing for an equaliser, Hendry’s cross into a crowded six-yard box was headed out by Taylor Foran but only to Davies who flashed a fierce right-footed volley across goal which Saunders glanced wide.
Tranmere found their equaliser from the penalty spot on 67 minutes after Saunders was fouled in the box by Murray, as referee James Oldham pointed to the spot.
Hawkes, who scored the winner at Stevenage from the spot, was successful from 12-yards again, striking his kick powerfully high into the top corner which crashed in off Stolarczyk’s crossbar.
Buoyed by their equaliser, Hawkes was involved once more, weaving into space to cross before crossing for Burton to flick his header narrowly wide.
Murphy had to be called upon minutes later, saving bravely from Nicky Featherstone’s shot after he was set free by captain David Ferguson.
In the closing stages of the game, Jordan Turnbull headed Hendry’s corner off target, while Saunders could not test Stolarczyk.
It was Hartlepool who had the game’s final chance on 91 minutes. The unmarked Kemp connected with Ferguson’s cross but he could not direct his header past Murphy.
Next up for Rovers is a long trip down to Kent next Saturday for an away fixture at Gillingham, 3pm kick-off.
Tranmere: Murphy, Dacres-Cogley, Turnbull, Davies, Bristow, Walker (Turner-Cooke 48), Hendry, Hawkes, Merrie, Lewis (Burton 17), Saunders
Subs not used: Hewelt, Jameson, O’Connor, Chalmers, Mumbongo
Goal: Hawkes (pen, 67)