John Hughes will resist calls to start with Luke James at Scunthorpe

Luke James scores the winning goal against Leyton Orient. Picture by FRANK REID

Luke James scores the winning goal against Leyton Orient. Picture by FRANK REID

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JOHN Hughes understands the clamour to start with terrace favourite Luke James – but the Pools boss says he will continue to protect the teenager.

The 18-year-old was the match-winner at the weekend as his 94th-minute strike stole a 2-1 victory over Leyton Orient.

James – who burst onto the senior stage just over a year ago – is still easing his way back to full fitness after a first half of the season punctuated by injury.

Hughes is mindful of his forward’s recent fitness record and that is why he will ignore calls for James to start at Scunthorpe United on Saturday.

“Luke is someone we have to look after,” Hughes told SportMail today ahead of the trip to Glanford Park.

“I say to the supporters I know why he’s a favourite, I can see that, he excites the fans and that’s great.

“He works hard every day and is a pleasure to work with - he gives his all out there.

“But we shouldn’t put too much on him in terms of expectations.

“I’ve seen players like that who, before you know it, have burned out.

“Let him enjoy his moment, getting the winning goal, then we will bring him back down to earth.”

Hughes has also witnessed a versatility to James in recent weeks.

The youngster scored twice for the reserves from a right-wing position and has appeared on both flanks and through the middle at first-team level.

And Hughes went on: “Luke is invaluable really in that he can play across the forward line and plays in every position with the same enthusiasm and energy.

“He played right-wing for the reserves the other day and scored two goals from there.

“You might not see that and think he’s no right winger.

“But he is a brilliant option to have from the bench right now and he can make a major impact for us.”