A GOAL from Luke James has given Hartlepool United a deserved 1-0 lead away to Wimbledon at the half-way stage of their Sky Bet League Two match.
James 12th goal of the season in the 43rd minute has given Pools the advantage after a strong opening 45 minute performance by Colin Cooper’s men.
Cooper named an unchanged starting eleven with on-loan Middlesbrough midfielder Luke Williams again starting at the front of a midfield diamond formation, behind the front two of Marlon Harewood and James.
It was the same team that started the 2-0 win over York City at Victoria Park at the weekend, which meant Jack Barmby, who came off the bench to score against the Minstermen again started on the bench.
Former Pools striker Charlie Wyke, who spent a spell on loan at The Vic last season from Middlesbrough, started the match on the bench for Wimbledon at the Cherry Red Records Stadium.
Pools started the match in 14th position, with their opponents in 11th spot in Sky Bet League Two.
Barmby’s dad Nick was in the executive box, along with chairman Ken Hodcroft and Hartlepool-born Soccer Saturday presenter Jeff Stelling.
The game started with a high tempo, with the away side having the better chances of the opening few minutes.
Within the first five minutes, Brad Walker had twice tested Ross Worner.
The first, a side-footed effort from the edge of the area was well held but 17-year-old’s second effort from 30-yards was acrobatically tipped over the bar by the home keeper to keep the scores level.
Harry Pell looked dangerous for the Dons and twice tested Scott Flinders from distance, but the Pools stopper was equal to both efforts - although he almost fumbled the second shot in the 15th minute but managed to recover.
It was an entertaining match between the two sides and while Pools had the best of the opening chances, the Dons fought back and looked dangerous on the break.
Christian Burgess, who had misplaced a few passes earlier in the match, should have hit the target at least in the 25th minute but was unable to connect with a deep Simon Walton free-kick.
Neil Ardley’s Dons had a glorious chance to take the lead but Kevin Sainte-Lusce slipped on the heavy turf and totally skewed his shot which was eventually blocked by Andy Monkhouse which gave Pools the chance to break.
Williams and James linked up well and the ball eventually broke to Monkhouse on the edge of the penalty area but he was unable to take advantage.
The lively Williams also found himself in space on the 18-yard line but his shot was comfortably wide, while Sainte-Lusce had another chance but it was well blocked by Walton and Monkhouse in the 29th minute.
A dipping free-kick from Walker sailed over the bar in the 37th minute after good work from Neil Austin drew a foul 20-yards out.
The shots continued to reign in on the Wimbledon goal, with Monkhouse again going close from distance but the ball flew wide of Worner’s left-hand post.
Pools had the clearer goalscoring opportunities and they finally took the lead in the 43rd minute, thanks to tireless James’ second goal in a week following his effort against York City on Saturday.
Williams’ deep cross found Monkhouse who nodded it back across the goal and brave James managed to head the ball home from six-yards to give Pools the lead.
It was nothing less than Pools deserved.
HALF TIME: Wimbledon 0 Pools 1
Hartlepool United (4-4-2): Flinders; Austin; Holden; Baldwin; Burgess; Walker; Walton; Monkhouse; Williams; Harewood; James.
Subs Not Used: Rafferty; Collins; Sweeney; Franks; Barmby; Compton; Rodney.
GOAL: James (43)
AFC Wimbledon (3-5-2): Worner; Fuller; Fenlon; Morris; Jones; Antwi; Moore; Pell; Sheringham; Midson; Sainte-Lusce.
Subs Not Used: Bennett; Brown; Moore; Arthur; Wyke; Francomb; Hylton.
Referee: Mark Haywood.
The Cherry Red Records Stadium, Wimbledon.