How will Hartlepool United manage without in form forward Luke James? Will Dave Challinor dip into the transfer market for a replacement?
Luke James may have only scored three times in 15 starts this season, but his impact on the side in recent months is something Dave Challinor will need to cover.
The in-form forward suffered a serious groin injury during last week’s FA Cup second round victory over Exeter City.
And while the 25-year-old hasn’t been the most prolific in front of goal so far this season, his contributions since the initial change in management back in October have garnered plenty of plaudits.
A dazzling cameo performance off the bench at Aldershot Town saw James play a key role in Pools’ second and third goals in a 3-0 win in what was Antony Sweeney’s first game in charge as caretaker manager.
Since then his contributions to the side under both Sweeney and new permanent manager Dave Challinor has highlighted the importance of James to his side as he now looks to fill in the gap left in his absence.
While James had previously featured out wide or in a deeper role for Pools in the early stages of the season, Challinor’s decision to utilise him as a central striker had proved effective.
In his nine starts prior to the injury, James played a direct role in eight goals scored by Hartlepool with three goals and five assists.
The forward’s work rate and tenacity means he’s something different to the other attacking options Pools have available.
Gime Toure and Nicke Kabamba are the only others currently fit and able to play, leaving Pools slightly short up top if they don’t bring in reinforcements.
They’ve already loaned out Niko Muir to Hemel Hempstead for a month while also bringing in winger Tyler Hamilton and midfielder Mark Shelton on loan until the new year.
Challinor has hinted that a forward to fill in the gap left by James is next on his shopping list though he will have to be stringent in managing his budget.
United simply cannot afford a marquee striker signing as it stands so may have to be clever in the loan market once again.
Pools are thought to be looking at a few players involved with Sunderland’s academy set-up with goalkeeping coach Ross Turnbull spotted at recent matches.