QUICK, direct, lively, clinical and somewhat bewildering. It’s not only a description of Luke James’ embryonic career to date and of late, but defines Hartlepool United’s match winners.
Pools went to unbeaten Wimbledon without a win and with their leading striker left at home, mulling over his two transfer requests.
Whatever the rights, wrongs and reasons for James staying away, the biggest denouncement of his actions was that Charlie Wyke and Marlon Harewood scored Pools’ first goals of the season to earn their first points.
Twelve months ago it took Pools until their seventh game to record their first win. At least they are two games better off this time around.
Wyke was signed on loan from Middlesbrough on Friday, a striker to increase options in James’ self-enforced absence. Harewood was back after being left out of the starting XI last time out.
Both offered plenty up front, full of energy and, that vital commodity missing previously, goals.
Wyke spent three months on loan at Victoria Park two seasons ago, up front as John Hughes’ side headed for relegation.
A three-month stint at Saturday’s opponents last season furthered his professional development.
Now 21-years-old, this seems to be a more mature Wyke. Stronger and more aware of his surroundings, he was a different player to the willing, but very raw, loanee previously seen in a Pools shirt.
His goal wasn’t the best he will ever score, but it was vital. Ryan Brobbel’s free-kick was headed high up in the penalty area, bounced six yards from goal, and Wyke got under it to nod in.
And he had a hand in the second, laying the ball off from Harewood’s header for the impressive Brobbel to tear onto and cross low for Harewood, who made up his ground from halfway, to turn and fire in.
Harewood has been something of an enigma at Pools. He was again on Saturday, but when he stepped his game up later on, he was unplayable. This was rampant Harewood, the striker with a swagger, last seen in Pools previous victory, that vital win over Morecambe on Easter Monday.
Colin Cooper said: “I still think there’s more from Marlon and I won’t stop asking for more.
“He is such a nice guy, and I mean that in the nicest possible sense, he is a good guy. When I brought him in I knew he wasn’t only a bloke with quality he is a nice bloke, a good one to have around.
“When you step on the pitch and see how [Adebayo] Akinfenwa is with our defenders and how others are too, that’s what I want from Marlon.
“Charlie led the line for, what 60 minutes, and I thought from then on Marlon closed the game down. He was chasing the ball and their defenders down in injury time and do that in the 95th minute means you can do it from the first.
“So that’s the standard and I won’t stop asking more of him all the time. I’m delighted for him to get a goal and delighted with the reaction of him and the supporters at the end of the game.’’
Going a goal down to another soft one was disappointing. Matt Tubbs is an £800,000 striker on loan at Wimbledon with three goals already this season, but was left alone in the penalty area to pick his spot and fire across Scott Flinders.
The Pools’ keeper was to get the better of him later, however.
Flinders’ heroics came when Tommy Miller tripped Tubbs in the penalty area. Pools’ first win looked a long way off.
Flinders read Tubbs’ well-struck shot, diving firmly to his right to keep it out and then get back up to smother the follow-up.
It wasn’t luck – Pools might not have the biggest of resources, but they use what they have and it a regular video session with the club’s media manager paid off.
“The penalty save was vital. If I’m brutally honest I expected Tubbs to score, but the save was down to the work he puts in watching possible penalty takers and where they have gone,’’ said Cooper. “Maybe it’s not luck to save it and the braver on the follow up was exceptional as well.
“We kept it out for the last 15 minutes which I’m pleased about. We showed bollocks – I’ve asked for it, we wanted to show character and we did.’’