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Walker is an instant hit for Hartlepool
SINCE the arrival of the new management team, there’s been a change in emphasis at Victoria Park.
Colin Cooper and Craig Hignett have a background in coaching young players and they’ve never been worried about pitching them into the hustle and bustle of League Two.
LUKE SHARP: Luke James challenges for the ball
Luke James, Jack Baldwin and Michael Duckworth have become mainstays in the Pools side and have attracted plenty of admirers across the land.
Bradley Walker made an instant impression on the management duo when they took over. The teenager was instantly promoted to the firstteam squad and signed a professional contract after some impressive showings in preseason.
Five months and an ankle ligament injury down the line and it might be Walker’s time.
He certainly made the most of his opening. With Pools one down to Burton Albion and seeking a lift, Walker was introduced.
Two minutes later, an instinctive and classy first-time strike for his first career goal had Pools level.
On Friday, he was part of the club’s Christmas video, as the players performed a festive tune via YouTube.
Never mind New York, some 24 hours later Walker enjoyed a Fairytale of Victoria Park.
It won’t be long before Walker’s name is back on the radar of bigger clubs if this is anything to go by.
“Brad is six foot three and can play football – aged 17 or 36 he can play football,’’ reflected Cooper. “He has that in him to score a goal and he was one of the top scorers in the youth team because he wants to play in areas where he might be able to score.
“We needed that later on, no-one can argue with the decision.
“The way he broke forward and linked after we played it into Luke was excellent, but he’s more than capable of that.
“He could break into areas and come up with six, seven, ten goals a season. It’s been hard for him because he got an ankle injury and we went on a real surge in form.
“The lads playing have deserved their place; now we look at what Brad gave us when he came on and wonder if we have to give him his chance again. That’s a decision for me and Craig to make.’’ Pools reverted to their preferred 4-2-3-1 formation, but with the two holding midfielders entrenched in the game without making much attacking impression, Pools needed someone in there to break forward.
Antony Sweeney was an option, getting ahead from deep has long been his trademark.
Instead, Cooper left the captain on the bench and opted for youth.
Cooper added: “The goal was superb. With substitutes, you have to look and see what’s going on and happening within a game and Burton nullified part of our game and what James Poole does for us.
“They realised his threat.
Where Simon plays on the pitch, in settling things and getting the ball moving, I wanted someone forwardthinking in there and the goal shows that. The ball bounces off Luke, then a lovely onetouch finish from Bradley. It’s what he’s capable of. He’s technically gifted and he has goals in him.
“It’s great for him, he had a real impact and looked likely to score.’’ Pools needed that lift and after the goal came their best spell of the game. Up to the hour mark they weren’t at their best and again started a game slowly.
Burton took the lead when their right-back Phil Edwards was allowed to break into the area, take control and hook in.
As much as Cooper was disappointed with the nature of the goal, there was bewilderment when referee Richard Clark allowed a foul on James to go unpunished in the buildup.
He gave free-kicks for far less as the game went on.
Burton could have been two-up minutes later but screwed a good chance wide, then, at the start of the second half, Billy Kee fired over an empty net after he got the better of Jack Baldwin and keeper Scott Flinders.
The Brewers went into the game with four wins from six unbeaten games and they played with the outlook of a form side. For how long they could keep up their high workrate was always a poser – their manager, Gary Rowett, admitted that after 60 minutes he felt his side wouldn’t win after they missed too many chances.
But Pools had their share.
Andy Monkhouse twice had efforts cleared off the line, while James had a shot saved by the legs of keeper Dean Lyness.
Then came Walker’s introduction.
With four games in ten days to come, there’s every chance he will be back in the starting XI.
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