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Pools hope James is getting back to his best
IT'S taken a while, taken some encouragement and support, but Luke James may have rediscovered the sort of form that has him earmarked as a future talent.
The Hartlepool United teenager has had to wait a long time to get his name on the scoresheet, Saturday's finish against Scunthorpe was his first since bagging two in mid-January.
Those goals - and the best performance of his career to date - came against Carlisle. Pools will hope it's more than a coincidence the Cumbrians are next on the agenda this weekend.
Since running lumbering defender Lubo Michalik ragged that day - the Slovak has since left Brunton Park, which is a shame for James - the 17-year-old has grown up in more ways than one.
He's had to get used to being tightly shackled, while a growing spurt put him out of action for a couple of months and he's struggled to find his spark since.
When he burst onto the scene, the Cyril Knowles Stand at Victoria Park contained more scouts than a jamboree - 21 different clubs watched him against Bournemouth, with Bolton and Huddersfield's representatives known to have strongly recommended a bid.
How many are back on Saturday remains to be seen, but if he can finish with the style he did against Scunthorpe, then he will be on the radar again.
"Luke was brilliant against Carlisle last season,'' remembered skipper Sam Collins . "We all get put in the team and are high as a kite and then see the other side when it doesn't go for you.
"It doesn't matter who you are, young or old, you will have a bad patch and it's about how you react.
"He's come on this time and scored so we all want him to kick on now and score a few more.
"That will give him confidence and he didn't look like he had been struggling the way he took it.
"He is a really nice young lad, who wants to learn, doesn't get carried away and comes in each day with a smile on his face.
"He's a happy lad and everyone wants him to do well. He listens and wants to learn, takes things on board and when you get young kids like that then we have plenty of experienced players who will help and assist him - it's the same with all the young players here.''
And it was one of those elder statesman who impressed from the off. Paul Murray was back in the starting XI, the first time this season, in place of Simon Walton.
Neale Cooper admitted it wasn't a taxing decision, and there's little doubt it was the right one.
Murray, as he does, kept possession and broke up play.
"He was 36 on Friday, credit to him, a fit boy, good professional and always wants the ball,'' said Neale Cooper.
"I always wonder if he can play in a four midfield. He did really well.
"Was it a tough decision? No, not after Notts County, Simon needs to do better, but I've said my piece on that.
"We all know what's needed. Maybe Simon isn't happy at not playing, but I expect that.
"Paul's attitude has been spot on, he's never come moaning to me and he's got on with it.
"I bear no grudges, I said to Paul as he left 'well done out there' and shook his hand. He was superb.
"On the pitch he talks and he issues the orders, but backs it up with his game as well. He shows composure, aggression - he's not the biggest or quickest - and gets the ball down. He's a born winner. In training he's been leading the way in running. He will always do the best he can.
"You will always get your lot from Paul Murray.''
Pools won't come up against teams as inept as Scunthorpe every week, their back four individually and collectively, were shabby.
But Pools attack didn't fire up. Steve Howard and James Poole laboured through the game and, even when James was introduced his first touch was to give away possession from a throw-in.
Howard's firmly-struck penalty was kept out by keeper Sam Slocombe, awarded after Josh Walker saved Antony Sweeney 's header on the line.
Pools were ahead thanks to an Evan Horwood ball across the penalty area that was met by Jonathan Franks to smash in his first goal for Pools.
1-0: Franks (22, latched onto an Evan Horwood cross at the far side of goal and angled his shot in)
2-0: James (86, picked out by Andy Monkhouse , took a touch to set up and volleyed in from 18 yards)
Bookings : None
Referee : David Coote (Newark): A non-confrontational display in which he didn't upset anyone 7
Attendance : 3,863
Entertainment : 1/5
HARTLEPOOL UNITED (4-4-2):
6 Flinders: Off his line at every opportunity to make a play for the ball and won it nine times out of ten;
5 Austin: Rarely worried defensively, but Cooper would have wanted him to get ahead more than he did
6 Collins: Not bothered at all by the one-man forward line as he eased through the game
5 Hartley: No fuss and no problem, not afraid to dish out encouragement and bollockings
7 Horwood: Created the first goal in a performance he will want to carry on into next week's game with Carlisle;
5 Franks: Heavily involved in the first half and took his goal well, but the manager wants more creativity and crosses from the winger
7 MURRAY: Simple, effective and always available - kept possession and protected the back four
7 Sweeney: With Murray's protection in midfield, charged forward into the area, but some of his forays should have been tapered
6 Monkhouse: Had his influential moments, especially in both goals, and picked out James well for the game-clinching second strike;
4 Howard: Defenders doubled up on him, never looked happy and, while his penalty was struck well enough, that it didn't go in summed up his day
5 Poole: Better than last time out, lively 45 minutes and then faded before being replaced.
James (for Poole 62): Finish wasn't the strike of someone short on 6
Holden (for Franks 70): Involved, but a little too enthusiastic on occasions and needed to rein himself back a bit 6
Not used : Humphreys, Walton, Luscombe, Baldwin, McHugh (gk), James.
SCUNTHORPE (4-5-1): Slocombe 6; Ribeiro 3, Mirfin 4, Canavan 4, Newey 4; Duffy 6, Walker 5, Ryan 6 (Jennings 55, 5), Prutton 5, Barcham 5 (Keegan 71); Grella 6. Subs (not used): Jennings, Severn, Gibbons, Hughes, Howe.
MAN OF THE MATCH
PAUL Murray - back in the side and proved his value in a textbook midfield holding role display
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