Morecambe v Hartlepool United: Peterborough striker Luke James set for middle role

Luke James is ready to fill the boots of Billy Paynter at Morecambe tomorrow.

Friday, 8th April 2016, 6:00 am
Luke James

Hartlepool United’s skipper and talisman is a major doubt for the trip to the Globe Arena (kick-off 3pm) with a hamstring injury. James looks the favourite to take Paynter’s central role and he will look to take the mantle of the team’s goal scorer.

The 21-year-old has been operating on the right of 15-goal Paynter in a 4-3-3 formation, but boss Craig Hignett is almost certain to play him through the middle.

“I don’t mind playing anywhere as long as I’m playing,” said the Peterborough forward, who is on a half-season loan at his beloved Pools.

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“There is no better feeling than playing games.

“I’m enjoying playing where I am at the minute, that’s where I first started playing when I first came through.

“I do like it, I like getting at my man and putting crosses in and cutting inside and sometimes having a shot.

“But if I got to play through the middle I’m used to that too, so hopefully I can start [at Morecambe] and put a good shift in for the team.”

James is certainly putting in the shifts - his work-rate and desire remains as high as ever.

The goals though are not coming, though that is partly down to a scarcity of chances.

James has not scored since finding the net for Posh at Doncaster 12 months ago and has not been on the mark for Pools since April 2014.

He’s not having nightmares about it, but he’ll be desperate to get the proverbial monkey off his back.

“I’m just not worrying about it at all,” he said.

“I’m just trying to do the right things in training, trying to do the right things on the pitch, getting in the right areas and hopefully luck will be on my side.

“I might just get one in off my shin or something like that but I’ll take any goal.”

A central role and presumably more chances, allied to the fact he’ll be facing one of the leakiest defences in League Two, should give him that chance.

Hignett looks resigned to losing Paynter.

Given the nature of the injury, it would require a remarkable recovery for the 31-year-old to feature either tomorrow or Tuesday’s visit to Notts County.

“Billy felt his hamstring the other night,” said Hignett, who described his chances as “touch and go.”

Hignett praised the captain who has been instrumental in the side’s seven-match unbeaten run which has re-energised the season.

“Billy has been another one who has been fantastic for me,” said the manager.

“He’s a leader, he’s great in the dressing room and he scores goals, he’ll be a big miss.”

Nathan Thomas (chest infection) and Michael Woods (dead leg) both missed the midweek defeat.

Thomas missed training yesterday but Hignett hopes he will get through a sesion today at Maiden Castle.

Woods would almost certainly have started against the Cumbrians but for his injury sustained late in the 2-1 win over Mansfield last Saturday.

Hignett has options in selection, should the duo make it.

Woods could join Nicky Featherstone and Lewis Hawkins in midfield, allowing Jake Gray to take the role James has been playing on the right of the main striker.

Gray was very effective in that position at Luton Town or the manager could use Rhys Oates there if Thomas is fit to start on the left.

Pools (probable): Carson, Magnay, Bates, Jackson, Carroll, Featherstone, Woods, Hawkins, Gray, James, Oates. Subs (from): Bartlett, Harrison, Richards, R Jones, Laurent, Walker, Oyenuga, Bingham