HARTLEPOOL UNITED 2 ROCHDALE 0

James Brown scores his goal against Rochdale. Picture by FRANK REID
James Brown scores his goal against Rochdale. Picture by FRANK REID

PETER Hartley said in the build up to the game that it was time to separate the men from the boys – little did he know it would be a boy wonder who made all the difference.

At 17 years and 64 days, Luke James scribed his name in Poolie folklore and the history books courtesy of a breathtaking late strike to seal this much-needed victory.

Scott Flinders smothers a loose ball. Picture by FRANK REID

Scott Flinders smothers a loose ball. Picture by FRANK REID

He’d watched seven of the previous nine home defeats with his youth-team comrades sat in the stands, probably disgruntled like everyone else at the efforts of his senior club-mates.

Secretly he thought he could do better.

After Saturday, however, the secret is out – Pools have unearthed a real star.

Even before his stunning goal and minus the sentiment of youth, James was Pools’ best player.

If it came to him, he killed it. If it didn’t come to him, he chased it.

He should have tired given the legwork of his forward forays, but he didn’t.

Instead, with 10 minutes left on the clock and a nervy finale looming, he somehow mustered the energy and power from within his slight frame to hammer a 25-yard volley into the top corner of the goal.

If ever a performance was deserving of such a scintillating strike then this was it, for James had outshone his elder team-mates from the off.

Read Craig Hope’s full match report, plus more reaction to Pools’ win, in today’s Sportmail.