TO the backdrop of a nine-hour goal drought at senior level, Luke James took just 26 minutes to plunder a hat-trick for the club’s reserves.
Three goals in 26 minutes?
Pools’ joint-top scorers – Jon Franks and James Poole – have managed just four apiece all season.
It capped some week for James.
League One Apprentice of the Year at a glitzy awards ceremony in London on Sunday night followed by this eye-catching treble, not to mention an after-show-party pic with SkySports reporter Hayley McQueen.
But James will not use either his prize or his goals as leverage when it comes to demanding a first-team recall.
“All I can do is do my best to impress for the reserves and if I do get in then I’ve got to take my chance,” the 18-year-old reflected afterwards with SportMail.
“It’s frustrating because everyone wants to play and I’m desperate to get out there and help.
“But I’m still young and still learning.”
Second-string coach Micky Barron appreciates there will now be a clamour among supporters for James to start against MK Dons tomorrow.
“Three goals and apprentice of the year, it hasn’t been a bad week for him,” said Barron.
“Someone needs to end that drought and it could be Luke.
“It’s nice that he’s in and around - you ask the players to stake a claim and I think he’s done that.
“But people see his three goals and say he should play - there’s also another side of his game he needs to work on.
“At times his touch gets away from him and he can give the ball away.
“That’s what we need to work on because I think his finishing is just a natural ability.
“He took his goals really well but it’s also about learning, understanding how to get into those positions.”
James’ opener came on 15 minutes when trialist Jideofo Maduako controlled in the area and slipped in his new team-mate, who coolly slotted home.
His second, three minutes later, also owed much to the work of trialists.
Middlesbrough trainee Curtis Edwards threaded a pass in behind the Rotherham backline allowing marauding full-back Joe Clemo to square for James who hooked into the top corner.
His third was the pick of the bunch, dropping a shoulder 20 yards out before locating the top corner with a cute curler.
The scoring was complete when Greg Rutherford headed home Darren Holden’s cross on 52 minutes.
It had been an impressive team display in front of senior boss John Hughes.
Jack Baldwin, back from a three-week knee lay-off, had strode effortlessly through the opening 45 minutes, while Nathan Luscombe produced a similarly classy performance.
While of the trailists it was 19-year-old midfielder Edwards who caught the eye.
And Barron went on: “I was very pleased. We passed the ball well, got into good positions and scored some good goals.
“Jack did ever so well, so did Nathan Luscombe, that’s the best I’ve seen him play.
“It didn’t take Jack long to get stuck into a crunching tackle.
“We were a bit worried and kept saying to him ‘calm down’.
“But you can’t take that out of him, whether it’s training, reserve-team or first-team, he’s competitive and wants to win the ball.
“He could have played on but 45 minutes is what we had planned for him.
“You could tell he was just a little bit above everyone else on the pitch.”
He continued: “Of the trialists I thought Joe got on the ball well in the first half.
“The two centre-halves (Maduako and Tommy Fletcher) did what they had to up against one striker.
“But I thought Curtis was probably the pick of them.
“He produced some quality passing and you look at that and see the quality he has.
“He suits the way we want to play.”
POOLS: Rafferty, Clemo, Maduako, Fletcher, Holden, Rutherford, Baldwin (Hawkins 46), Edwards, Luscombe (Rowbotham 67), James (Walker 74), Boagey. Subs not used: Buddle, Scott.