Two-goal James gutted by Hartlepool United’s late despair

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LUKE James was today reflecting on what might have been after the “heartbreak” of Hartlepool United’s 2-2 draw at Bristol Rovers.

Just a couple of weeks ago, an exciting away draw and a glut of chances would have been greeted with elation by Pools.

But Saturday’s point left Pools feeling “devastated”, according to two-goal teenager James. “To say we were disappointed is an understatement,” admitted the 18-year-old.

“If you walked into the dressing room after the game it was like a 4-0 defeat, it really was. For them to have scored on 89 minutes was a heartbreaker.

“The positive is we haven’t been beaten and hopefully we can push on.”

And, for James, the pain is even more palpable for the fact that he came so close to giving Pools maximum points on the road for the first time this season.

Jones raced clear on 79 minutes only for keeper Steve Mildenhall to make a strunning save to his left.

More frustration followed as Christian Burgess spurned a free header from the resulting corner from six yards. Had either found the net, Pools would have led 3-1 and the spoils would have been theirs.

And, to rub salt in the wounds, John-Joe O’Toole grabbed a Bristol Rovers equaliser with just a minute of normal time to go.

“We should have come away with three points,” James said. “I had a chance near the end and ‘Burge’ had a chance straight after.

“It’s a case of two points lost instead of one gained.

“The lads were devastated.”

James proved an honest young man, both on and off the field.

Boss Colin Cooper believed the striker was being fouled by O’Toole as he was pulling the proverbial trigger with his hat-trick opportunity.

But James stayed upright, just, and got his shot away and offered no excuses.

“I was fouled, I felt someone clipping at me,” he explained. “But I wasn’t going to go down. Some people might have looked to go down, but I’d have done the same thing if it happened again

“I was through and in the middle of the goal I was never going to have a better opportunity

“I’d have got a bit of stick if I’d thrown myself to the floor

“I should have scored.”

Bristol Rovers: Mildenhall, Smith, Parkes, McChrystal, Brown, Bond, Lockyer, O’Toole, Richards (Clarkson 86), Harding (Harrison 64), Harrold. Subs not used: Gill, Norburn, Gough, Keary, Southway. Booked: Lockyer. Goals: Harrold 35, O’Toole 90.

Hartlepool: Flinders, Duckworth, Baldwin, Burgess, Austin, Franks (Collins 77), Dolan, Walton, Compton, Monkhouse (Poole 84), James. Subs not used: Rafferty, Sweeney, Richards, Holden, Rodney. Booked: Walton, Compton. Goals: James 36, 45.

Att: 5,579.

Ref: Charles Breakspear (Surrey)