Liam Kennedy's Hartlepool United analysis: Good things come to those who wait as Luke James is belated star of the show

Sixty three days and eight games.

Sunday, 3rd March 2019, 11:54 am
Updated Monday, 4th March 2019, 11:57 am
Luke James.

That’s how long Luke James had to wait to bag his third goal of the season, in what’s been a barren campaign in front of goal since his Hartlepool United return.

And that’s not the worst of it - the gap between his first and second goals in his third spell at Pools was 24 games and 133 days.

But as I’ve said, time and time again, to judge James, as you do other strikers, on goals alone only tells a fraction of the story - case in point was Bromley seven days previous to this weekend’s Sutton United heroics.

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Without James hassling defenders, without the constant nuisance factor he provides, Pools just didn’t look quite as good.

At Ebbsfleet he was compared to Chris Waddle by the overly exuberant and flamboyant local radio commentators behind me in the press box. And while that comparison was by anyone’s standards absolutely mental, I kind of get what they meant, with his slightly unkempt look, socks around his ankles and the ease at which he was gliding past players that cold, Tuesday evening.

James is the type of player that even if he does not score, defenders who play against him know they’ve been in a game, opposition managers see him as a threat and spectators take notice. He was called into the England C squad, for the second time this season, despite his meagre three in 37 statistic. Goals win games but James’ work ethic and tireless running allow others in the Pools team to prosper.

Saturday, though, was his day.

Two goals down at a team who are very likely to be in the play-off spots come the end of next month, few would have given injury-hit Pools much of a chance at all.

But there’s a fight and a belief in this current crop, who look like their flash of a fight is coming far too late in the season to change their ultimate course towards mid-table mediocrity.

Mark Kitching was the unlikely source that sparked the revival, looping a cross over the head of the Sutton keeper for 2-1.

And while he might not have scored many goals this campaign, as the ball dropped James, with 15 minutes left, the striker took it like a 20-goal-a-season man.

It can easily be glossed over but this was a tough day for Pools defensively.

As bad as Sutton were in their own third in the second half, Pools more than matched that for the first hour.

Fraser Kerr is an excellent signing from Gateshead, a leader who will win everything moving forward, but it was a baptism of fire on Saturday for him.

Things did improve, though, despite the loss of Aaron Cunningham to a calf strain, with Scott Loach making a number of notable saves and the importance of one Myles Anderson challenge, as midfielder Craig Eastmond was ready to stroke into an empty net cannot be understated.

This was a point where little was expected, especially giving Sutton a two-goal start. It was another sign that manager Craig Hignett is definitely the man for Pools’ present and their future - it’s just a shame he wasn’t given more of a chance in the recent past.