By Dan King - Newcastle United Club Reporter
Newcastle United Under-18s 2
Hartlepool United Under-18s 2
There were lessons to be learnt for Newcastle United's youngsters on Saturday as they dominated the vast majority of their second pre-season friendly of the summer, only to surrender a two goal lead.
But Under-18s Coach Dave Watson and Academy Manager Joe Joyce will have been pleased with most aspects of their young team's performance against Hartlepool, who cancelled out goals from Liam Smith and Rolando Aarons through substitute Connor Halpin's brace.
With next weekend's Milk Cup tournament in mind, Watson named the same starting XI as against Gateshead's Academy in midweek, meaning more minutes for returning midfielder Liam Henderson in a side mainly made up of first-year scholars.
Aarons and Greg Olley had both had chances before United took a deserved lead on 13 minutes. Esteban Cardona Lopez's cutback from the right eventually found its way to 16-year-old Smith who drilled the ball past Pools keeper Callum Dobson from just inside the area.
The same player had a free-kick saved before rampaging right-back James Morgan's cross hit the post and fell to Henderson, who shot just wide, while Columbian playmaker Cardona Lopez twice laid on chances for England under-16 striker Alex Gilliead.
First, his low cross was put over by Gilliead before a clever slide-rule pass allowed the Shotley Bridge-born frontman to go clear but he was denied by Dobson - and moments later, he stabbed just wide after Smith's deft pass.
The visitors barely threatened in the first period and the Magpies started the second half on top too, with Cardona Lopez heading against the post and substitute Adam Armstrong thwarted by Dobson.
But Pools almost levelled when Dan Jones' thumping strike from almost 30 yards crashed against the post with replacement keeper Aidan Grant - on for Freddie Woodman at the break - beaten all ends up.
At the other end, Gilliead hit the post before Armstrong's follow-up also struck the woodwork but on 68 minutes, United looked to have made the game safe as Aarons - who had been electric at times in the first half - did well down the right and saw his low shot go over the line via a slight deflection. It was the former Bristol City winger's first goal in black and white.
Hartlepool responded almost immediately, however, as Halpin forced the ball home from close range and it was they who finished the stronger. With five minutes left, Halpin got the equaliser as he showed great control and composure to bring down a long ball before prodding home.