For details on how to contact our editorial and commercial departments, click here
James rewarded for his hard work
THE work on and off the Hartlepool United training ground is paying off for Luke James and Colin Cooper.
Since making an impact on his arrival in the first-team a year gone January, James has long been lauded.
But he's yet to become really establised in the first-team, despite some impressive and bright performances in the forward line.
His two goals at Bristol Rovers on Saturday took his season tally to three and he appears to be forming Cooper's preferred striking partnership alongside Andy Monkhouse.
Cooper and assistant Craig Hignett have been working closely with the 19-year-old, to the extent of giving him DVDs of his performances to take home and watch.
And it's his willingness to learn and develop his game which is pleasing Cooper.
"Luke was terrific. He wants to learn, asks questions what to do and when to do it,'' he said.
"It's everything you want as a manager, someone who is hungry to learn and I feel he has that hunger. What he showed on Saturday was how to be a real thorn in the defender's side and he got his reward.
"If he had been going home with the matchball he would have a smile as wide as the River Severn, but it wasn't to be.
"He's got pace and it's not nice playing against people with pace and who put you under constant pressure. And I thought his real big improvement was how he handled the ball and how he used it.
"He looked stronger than of late, again something we have worked on and he was positive. Not content with what he did, but he wanted to do more as well.
"Right down the middle, all his work was about driving forward and, other than a last-ditch challenge from a midfielder chasing back, he could have had a hat-trick.''
James, 18, netted two tidy first-half finishes at the Memorial Stadium, he's now got nine career goals to his name.
But he was denied a hat-trick when keeper Steve Mildenhall saved his measured finish.
"Luke put two nice finishes away, he catches the goalkeeper wrong-footed which is good,'' reflected Cooper. "For the last chance he is looking and showing where he's putting it and the keeper got a good hand to it.
"Luke wants to learn, he is forever asking questions and that's the kind of player I want to work with.
"I would have loved to see him walking off with the match ball, but it wasn't to be.''
James gave Pools an instant response to going a goal behind when he knocked a low shot home from 22 yards a minute after conceding.
Then he turned smartly in the area to put Pools 2-1 up on half-time.
"I managed to slide it into the bottom corner and people will tell you that's the best way to score,'' he reflected.
"If you lash at the ball they can go anywhere.
"Then I have managed to wriggle away to turn and score for the second.
"I felt good because that's what I have been trying to work on with the gaffer. The hold up play has never been the strongest part of my game but on Saturday it was a lot better than it normally is and hopefully I can continue.''
Defender Michael Duckworth yesterday signed a long-term deal at Pools. Since impressing on trial in pre-season, the right-back, signed from Bradford Park Avenue has impressed in his five outings while on a month-long deal.