THE spoils were shared at the Suit Direct Stadium as Hartlepool United and Sunderland completed their pre-season preparations with a 1-1 draw.

Pools will head into Saturday’s League Two opener at Walsall buoyed by their performance against Championship opposition, having claimed an early lead when Ellis Taylor deflected Jake Hastie’s cross into his own net.

Alex Neil named a much-changed Sunderland line-up, and will have been reasonably satisfied with his players’ efforts, with Elliot Embleton’s penalty on the stroke of half-time ensuring the Black Cats did not suffer a third defeat in a row ahead of their season-opener against Coventry City on Sunday.

Neil changed all 11 of the players that started Saturday’s defeat at Accrington Stanley, and opted to play with a back three of Carl Winchester, Danny Batth and Aji Alese.

Jack Diamond led the line for the Black Cats in the absence of Ross Stewart, but the early action took place at the opposite end of the field, with Hartlepool claiming a surprise lead after just three minutes.

Hastie made a surging run into the right-hand side of the penalty area, and after the Pools midfielder slid a low cross across the face of the box, a stretching Taylor could only prod the ball into his own net.

Sunderland struggled to get themselves back into the game initially, with Harrison Sohna proving especially wasteful in the left wing-back berth.

Trai Hume got onto the end of Taylor’s 13th-minute cross from the left-hand side, but while his first-time effort was heading in, Pools goalkeeper Ben Killip turned the ball around the post.

Killip should have been beaten midway through the first half, but while Danny Batth rose unopposed to meet Embleton’s corner eight yards out, he could only direct his header wide of the target.

Sunderland missed an even better chance on the half-hour mark, with Jack Hamilton’s under-hit back-pass playing Hartlepool into trouble. Diamond seized on the ball, and while he was forced wide as he attempted to round Killip, he looked to have teed up Embleton perfectly with a pull-back. Embleton had plenty of time to line up his strike, but his first-time effort flew over the crossbar.

The midfielder, who scored Sunderland’s opening goal in May’s play-off final, made amends on the stroke of half-time as he levelled from the penalty spot.

Diamond was fouled by Euan Murray as he broke across the face of the 18-yard box, and Embleton stepped up to fire home.

Pools boss Paul Hartley made seven changes at the half-time interval, but the hosts should have fallen behind six minutes into the second half.

Sohna delivered a low cross from the left, but Luke O’Nien could only shoot against the upright as he slid in at the back post. The rebound fell invitingly for Embleton, but he curled over the bar.

With Hartlepool’s second-half attacking largely consigned to a handful of counter-attacking breaks, Sunderland spent most of the final 45 minutes pushing for a winner.

Hume narrowly failed to connect with Taylor’s cross as he flew in at the back post, before Embleton failed to find the target with another long-range effort.

Joe Grey curled over as Pools briefly threatened in the closing stages, and Jacob Carney was forced to make his first save of the game with eight minutes left, keeping out Josh Umerah’s effort after the Pools substitute produced a deft back-heel.

HARTLEPOOL (4-5-1): Killip (Letheren 46); Tumilty, Lacey (Niang 46), Murray (Menayese 46), Ferguson (Paterson 46); Hastie (Shelton 46), Featherstone, Cooke (Umerah 46), Crawford, Grey; Hamilton (Ndjoli 46).

SUNDERLAND (3-4-2-1): Carney; Winchester, Batth, Alese; Hume, Matete, Embleton, Sohna (Spellman 84); O’Nien, Taylor; Diamond.

Subs (not used): Patterson (gk), Wright, Ballard, Cirkin, Evans, Gooch, Neil, Roberts, Pritchard, Clarke, Stewart.