FULL-TIME REPORT: Pools 2 Rochdale 0

Luke James plays the ball into the Rochdale penalty area. Picture by FRANK REID
Luke James plays the ball into the Rochdale penalty area. Picture by FRANK REID

TEENAGER Luke James was the star of the show as Hartlepool United finally ended a run of nine straight home defeats thanks to a 2-0 victory over Rochdale.

The 17-year-old netted a stunning second for Neale Cooper’s men to seal a first home win in three-and-a-half months and a first for the Scottish boss since his return to the club.

James, who only made his full debut last week, was switched to a centre-forward role for the visit of Chris Beech’s side and it was a ploy which worked.

Pools started brightly and when James centred from the left Andy Monkhouse ghosted in only to head over from six yards.

James was again proving to be the stand-out performer for the hosts but it was fellow teenager Jack Baldwin who was next to threaten as his 12-yard curler was well held by Peter Kurucz just before the half-hour mark.

Within minutes Kurucz had again denied Pools in their pursuit of an opener as he saved from Gary Liddle after the midfielder had headed Tony Sweeney’s delivery on goal from eight yards out.

James then had a go himself as he drove by Stephen Darby only to see Kurucz read his intentions and dive low to keep out his 14-yard steer which was headed for the bottom corner.

The youngster was at the heart of everything good about Pools and it was from his corner on the stroke of half-time that Monkhouse headed on goal only for Darby to hack from the line.

Rochdale emerged with a little more purpose for the second half after a lacklustre opening period and Sam Collins was forced into a last-ditch clearance from inside the six-yard area as the visitors enjoyed a spell of pressure on the hour mark.

But then came the breakthrough at the other end, substitute James Brown forcing his way onto a bouncing ball inside the area before heading beyond Kurucz from six yards.

It was the first time Pools had led at Victoria Park since mid September.

And their advantage was doubled nine minutes from time when man-of-the-match James served up his goal-of-the-season contender with a 25-yard volley which whistled into the top corner.

The goal drew the biggest cheer of the season so far at the Vic and proved enough to see home a much-needed three points.