A GOAL in his first game and now two in his last two – Jack Barmby has made an impression at Hartlepool United.
Since signing from Manchester United on loan, the 19- year-old has influenced and frustrated in equal measure.
But, without his ability, five goals and assists, where would Pools be right now?
Probably worse off than their 53 points, six ahead of the bottom two.
And, for all the frustration and inconsistency that comes with a young and prodigious talent like Barmby, Pools have needed him.
Would any other player in the squad have had the nous and temperament to score the crucial winning goal in the pressure situation against Morecambe last Monday?
Equally this time out, he was bright and alert enough to read and intercept a woeful header aimed at Plymouth goalkeeper Jake Cole by rightback Durrell Berry, to deftly lift the ball home.
On the day when Pools fans arrived en masse at Home Park dressed as Thunderbirds puppets, Barmby has been more Hartlepool Rescue than International Rescue.
“Jack’s goal was very composed,’’ reflected Colin Cooper.
“For a young player there have been an awful lot of positives in his time with us and he has made a very valuable contribution. There will be ups and downs but we have had five goals from him. We accept he is raw but he gives us plenty of positive things.
“We have all seen what Jack can do and he has a real amount of ability. From day one of him coming in, we are talking a 19-year-old as well, for him to give us what he has, I’m chuffed to bits for him.
“There will be ups and downs, but as a young player with talent he will keep learning.
“We can only be happy when he delivers like he did on Monday and again at Plymouth.
We can see what he gives us in possession. It looked like something was coming all day, so he was finally rewarded with a lovely calm finish.’’ “He didn’t stop and read it well and, as we saw on Monday, that one-on-one he finishes.
I think there’s only a couple of occasions when he hasn’t ended up scoring in that situation.’’ Cooper has long said that the one aspect of Barmby’s game Manchester United have been concerned about is what he does off the ball.
Playing in a role at the top of a midfield diamond, he has enough players around him to make sure his deficiencies can be masked over. At times, however, there is no hiding place, in League Two especially.
With the pressure off following the win over Morecambe, and Plymouth’s playoff hopes over, this game had some freedom about it.
And Pools played with the shackles off. The morose nature of too many recent away displays disappeared.
Connor Oliver started in central midfield, replacing the suspended Simon Walton, and the Sunderland loanee impressed from the off. His Wearside compatriot, Scott Harrison, was again solid at the back, and both have shown they would be useful loan recruits for next season, with Cooper hinting he is keen on such deals.
Willing to charge forward and help the attacks, while being disciplined when needed defensively, Oliver certainly caught the eye and added something extra to the side, including two first-half shots from distance.
Pools fell behind after Jason Banton picked the ball up, ran at the defence and, after they parted too easily, the attacker finished well.
But Barmby started to have an influence, twice testing keeper Cole before being too clever for him in scoring.
With ten minutes to go, leftback Darren Holden galloped forward and found a path into the area, going close after shooting low across goal.
Then Jack Compton, the other scorer in Monday’s memorable victory, broke on the counter attack at pace. He cut inside from the right and his low, left-footed shot came back off the post with Cole beaten.
In injury time, Scott Flinders was relieved to see Conor Hourihan’s free-kick come back off the post.
Cooper added: “To come all the way down here and go home with something then I can’t be anything other than happy.
“We were fluid it times and I would put that down to two teams who want to play football.
“Credit to John (Sheridan), he said himself it’s been a disappointing end to the season and it’s the same for us.
“Both teams are capable of competing at the top end of the table and it’s nice to see two teams who get the ball down and try to play through.
“I hope we can both be at the top end of the table next season.’’