Rival managers Joe Dunne and John Hughes were united in their condemnation of referee Geoff Eltringham after Hartlepool and Colchester drew 0-0 on a controversial night at Victoria Park.

A point apiece means the gap between the relegation rivals remains eight points at the foot of npower League One. But the game's main talking point was the decision to send off U's striker Jabo Ibehre two minutes before half-time. Ibehre went in for a tackle on Pools' defender Neil Austin and referee Eltringham instantly flashed a red card.

"For the red card, I don't think it was a booking," said Pools boss John Hughes. "Seriously. I sympathise with Colchester. If one of my players was sent off for that I'd be very disappointed. The lad came through and got his studs on the ball, I felt it was a poor decision."

Colchester boss Dunne, who admitted his club will be appealing the red card, said: "The sending-off, I've looked at it again and we'll be appealing straight away.

"It was a fair challenge, no studs showed when he made it. The laces were going for the ball. Austin got straight up to his credit. It was harsh, maybe the referee's angle made it hard for him, but he had a difficult game. Jabo was harshly sent off."

From that point on, after an even opening half, the game was all in Pools' favour. However, a firm and organised defensive performance from the U's kept them at bay. Visiting goaleeper Sam Walker tipped a goalbound James Poole shot on to the crossbar and he later kept out a Charlie Wyke effort from close range. It was a first draw for the U's in 20 games.

Dunne added: "It was a fantastic defensive performance, we can take joy from it. As a team we defended exceptionally well. We had to change it around with the sending-off and we did a lot of tactical work at half-time and changed it during the game as well.

"They had a lot of possession and chances, but we were strong and stout. The defenders were out on their feet, we changed things around a bit and played 3-4-2 which was quite brave later on."

Hughes, whose side moved to third bottom above Bury with their point, but still seven points from safety, added: "I felt it was difficult against 10 men, camped in to defend. We had to be patient, switch play, get it wide and we did it. It might have been one chance to get a goal and then the game would open up.

"The keeper made a couple of great saves and we were patient. Against 10 men it was as good as you can ask for in terms of playing football and playing in their half. We wanted it to drop in the box for us, can someone gamble on a cross? But don't go cavalier and keep them out at the back - but two points have got away from us."