Did Luke James derserve a penalty for Hartlepool United at Bristol Rovers?

LATE CHANCE: Luke James misses a good opportunity for Pools against Bristol Rovers. Picture by FRANK REID
LATE CHANCE: Luke James misses a good opportunity for Pools against Bristol Rovers. Picture by FRANK REID

COLIN Cooper is not a man to court controversy or make a song and dance about anything.

But the Hartlepool United boss wondered whether his two-goal star Luke James could have had a penalty when trying to seal a hat-trick at Bristol Rovers on Saturday.

James seized on some slack play by John-Joe O’Toole to hare towards the home goal with just over 10 minutes to go at the Memorial Stadium with Pools 2-1 in front.

O’Toole did his best to get back to retrieve the situation and tried to pressurise James, whose shot was saved by Steve Mildenhall.

Cooper believes the Gas midfielder had fouled the striker and wondered if a penalty might have been awarded, though that would have been a big call by ref Charles Breakspear, especially as the striker had seemed to have got a clean shot off.

“Luke was in on goal, but he didn’t get his shot off right,” said the manager.

“He went to slide the ball past the keeper, but O’Toole has chased him from the half-way line and nearly got him down in the area, as a last-ditch go at him and I feel he caught his ankle.

“I felt Luke’s shooting action wasn’t a natural one for a lad in on goal and looking to score.”

To rub salt into the Cooper wound, O’Toole was the scorer of the Rovers equaliser with only a minute of normal time remaining.

“They score at the end and that’s where the disappointment is felt,” he said.

O’Toole’s goal completed an exciting afternoon at the Memorial Stadium.

Rovers had taken the lead 10 minutes before half-time through Matt Harrold’s neat turn and finish.

But James seemed to have swung it around with two well-taken goals before the late intervention by O’Toole.

“It feels disappointing for the team – they feel like they have lost,” admitted Cooper. “For me, I see us coming away from home and putting a performance on.

“It was a good goal from Harrold, but we turned around very quickly and Luke took his goals very well. He was a threat.

“I said to him at half-time to go and get his hat-trick and make it his day. In my opinion, but for a nibble at his ankles when he was through, it would have been three goals for him.

“Bristol Rovers threw the kitchen sink at us in the second half and there were some dangerous moments out there.

“But we dealt with it reasonably well and on the whole we did all right.”