'He’s been brilliant' - Hartlepool United legend Gary Liddle on the heroics of Middlesbrough keeper Brad James
The name Brad James will go down in Hartlepool United folklore after his save secured Pools promotion back to the Football League.
The National League play-off final against Torquay United proved to be a promotion final classic as Luke Armstrong gave Pools the lead before Torquay goalkeeper Lucas Covolan headed in a 95th-minute equaliser to take the game to extra-time and penalties.
James came and got nowhere near the cross into the box as Covolan headed home.
But crucially, Hartlepool – and the on-loan Boro keeper – had the last laugh as James pushed Matt Buse’s decisive spot kick onto the crossbar to send the club back to the Football League.
It sparked wild celebrations both in Bristol – with 3,100 Pools fans cheering on – and also back home in the North East, with thousands watching on from home.
And James has won praise from experienced defender and club legend Liddle for his role in the win and the run through the play-offs.
Liddle said: “He’s been brilliant since he came in, he’s had a good last couple of games.
"He’ll say himself that he made a mistake for the goal and he probably didn’t need to come for that but mistakes happen and it’s about digging people out and getting them out of the mire.
"He’s come out trumps and all credit to Brad because he could have went under but he did outstanding for that save.
“It could have gone either way but it’s a brilliant achievement by the lads, it’s been a long season, almost a full year of football but it’s thoroughly deserved.”
The new season gets underway in just six weeks.
Hartlepool United will kick-off their League Two campaign and return to the Football League at home to Crawley Town.
The fixtures for the 2021-22 campaign were released Thursday morning and Pools start and end the season at The Vic in front of their home fans.
The new season gets underway on Saturday, August 7, with Dave Challinor's side handed a home game.
Their first league away game sees them travel to Barrow the following weekend.