Hartlepool United drought over as James eyes big progress

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HARTLEPOOL United starlet Luke James admits that his opening goal in last night’s 5-0 Johnstone’s Paint Trophy mauling of Bradford City was the most important of his fledgling career.

The 18-year-old’s 24th-minute effort – his first-ever headed goal and seventh in total – broke a run of six hours without a goal for Colin Cooper’s men.

James’s nod laid the foundations for Pools’ biggest victory in nearly six years, but they remain without a goal in League Two. The teenager, though, believes his strike eased the tension around Victoria Park and could prove to be the catalyst for a profitable run in front of goal.

“We have always said that if we get one then we will get a few – we managed to get five!” said James in the wake of the first-round triumph.

“We needed my goal. It wasn’t the best, it was a bit scrappy but sometimes they’re the most important ones.

“And I’d say that is the most important goal I’ve scored so far.

“It was the confidence that we needed and my goal was such a relief, especially after the run we’ve been on without a goal. Recently we’ve been going in 1-0 down and it’s been hard to turn games around.

“You could see the difference by us scoring first.”

James’s opener came against the run of play. The League One Bantams had gone close to breaking the deadlock on three occasions only to be hit by a home counter, Jon Franks’ cross returned by Jack Compton onto the forehead of James and he did the rest from close range.

Strikes from Jon Franks, Christian Burgess, Jack Compton and Nialle Rodney capped a memorable night.

“Luke, allied with Andy Monkhouse, was perfect – the pair of them were very, very good,” said Pools’ boss.

“That goal lifted him and all of a sudden he was playing on the shoulder of the defenders and was really threatening. Andy complimented that immensely with his flicks and hold-up play and they looked a really good pair.”

HARTLEPOOL: Flinders, Duckworth, Baldwin, Burgess, Austin, Monkhouse, Walker (Walton 69), Dolan, Compton (Poole 76), James (Rodney 69), Franks. Subs not used: Collins, Rafferty. Booked: Burgess, Austin, Baldwin. Goals: James 25, Franks 48, Burgess 56, Compton 59pen, Rodney 87

BRADFORD: Ripley, Darby, Taylor, McArdle (Connell 46), Meredith (McHugh 46), De Vita, Doyle, Kennedy, Ravenhill, Yeates, Thompson (Reid 75). Subs not used: McLaughlin, Wells. Booked: McArdle

Att: 1,740. Ref: Richard Clark (Northumberland).