Hartlepool United v Mansfield: Peterborough striker can start scoring

Luke James (yellow strip) battles in Pools' win at Leyton Orient. Picture by Frank Reid
Luke James (yellow strip) battles in Pools' win at Leyton Orient. Picture by Frank Reid

Craig Hignett has got Nathan Thomas on the goal trail – now the Hartlepool United boss wants to see Luke James find the net.

Thomas has struck twice on the six-match unbeaten run Pools are enjoying and will, doubtless, love to notch against former club Mansfield Town tomorrow (kick-off 3pm).

I’d love him to score, because when he does I’m sure we’ll see him go on a run

CRAIG HIGNETT

But Hignett is looking for James to end his wait for a goal – starting against the Stags.

The 21-year-old has not scored in 11 appearances since his loan move from Peterborough United.

In fact, he has not been on the mark since March 2015 when Posh won at Doncaster in League One.

But Hignett is confident that James’s wait is almost over.

“I’d love to get Luke scoring,” Hignett told SportMail.

“It’s not for the want of trying – he hit the post last week.

“But when he’s not scoring he still gives the team so much.

“The kid’s a pleasure to have about the place, he wants to learn, he does everything by the letter.

“I’d love him to score, because when he does I’m sure we’ll see him go on a run.

“I see him in training every day, he’s a great finisher.

“We’re playing him slightly different to what he’d like us to, he’s a second striker who will feed off stuff.”

Hignett has given the 2014 Player of the Year licence to go and find the net – just as he did for Thomas.

In the formation Pools are playing, James and Thomas are operating either side of leading scorer Billy Paynter.

But when Pools are not in possession the 4-3-3 goes more 4-5-1 and the two 21-year-olds drop deeper.

However, Hignett says the scope is there for James to drift, just as Thomas has to such notable effect.

“That might be something we do,” said the manager. “We have tried to be sensible with how we are doing it.

“I’ve told him I don’t want him staying wide, I want him to get in and around Billy when the ball’s in there.

“I don’t want him out wide crossing the ball, leave that for the full-backs to do.

“He’s getting used to it, but obviously it’s a new role for him.

“Luke can get in behind defences and makes good runs – we want out to in runs.

“We want him making runs towards goal not away and join in with Billy.

“Him and Nathan have done the job we ask defensively, and that shows in the clean sheets we’ve achieved, but we want them to express themselves going forward too.

“If that means the coming infield then that’s what we want.”

Hignett said that James, while not scoring, has been making a massive contribution to the transformation in the club’s fortunes.

“What he gives the team defensively is fantastic,” he said. “He is as brave as a lion, he does not shirk anything.

“He gets whacked, but he gets up and gets on with it and a pleasure to have around.”