THREE young players at Hartlepool United, three new contracts, three different Saturday scenarios.

Michael Duckworth, head down, strong defensively and defended his area in the manner he did so astutely last season.

Bradley Walker, signed a fresh deal on Friday, suffered an uneasy game. First-half in particular he was caught out on the ball too often and his passing wasn’t right.

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To his credit, his attitude never changed, always willing to get involved and learn from his performance.

Then there’s Luke James. Back in training after being absent for three days the week before last, he was on the bench at Cheltenham, appearing immediately after the home side scored a 90th minute winner.

But was that short cameo his last outing in a Pools shirt? 

Peterborough’s bid remains rejected and still on the table. Their manager Darren Ferguson, while admitting it was Luke James or nothing on deadline day, admitted: “We are playing a patient game with our main transfer target. If we don’t get him the loan market opens in a week, although I’m not sure of the merits of going down that route.”

Today could turn into a game of poker. Will Posh up their offer? As it stands, Pools will not sell. James wants away – two transfer requests in the space of a few days say as much.

Amid rumours of interest from another club, today could be an interesting one at Victoria Park.

"There is nothing new,’’ said Cooper when asked of the latest with James on Saturday.

"As it stands, from day one there has to be a deal agreed between two football clubs and that has not happened.

"I'm not saying there won't be but there isn't.

"It isn't a stock answer, it is the truth.

"Until there is a deal agreed between two football clubs, there isn't anything to talk about."

At least James was part of the squad this time, travelling to Whaddon Road on Friday, after skipping the Wimbledon game.

Cooper admitted: " I wasn't tempted to out Luke in from the start because he hasn't done enough training.

"I had a couple of conversations with him and we got him down to Cheltenham, which was the important thing in my opinion, and part of the team.

"We said it might just have been his afternoon. Unfortunately it wasn't.’’

It wasn’t Pools’ afternoon either.

On the back foot for the most of it and defending in an organised manner, they finally conceded in the 80th minute.

That the goal came from the head of the smallest player on the pitch, all five foot six inches of Koby Arthur, made it all the more galling.

A long throw in from the right was headed on by big centre-half Steve Elliott and Arthur stole into space to nod in past an inspired Scott Flinders.

The Pools’ keeper made a superb save minutes earlier, tipping a John Marquis header onto the crossbar.

The striker had already fired low against the foot of Flinders’ post after he broke past Matthew Bates on the right side.

Flinders’ post was also rattled by a Terry Gornell shot in the first-half, and then Michael Duckworth kept a goalbound header out with his knees from a corner.

On balance of play, The Robins felt they deserved the win. Pools didn’t create enough and, while the workrate of strikers Charlie Wyke and Marlon Harewood was up there, chances created were too minimal.

Cheltenham’s 3-5-2 formation was busy and, in the areas they had a numerical advantage – central defence and central midfield – they were on top.

Pools played that set-up at Whaddon Road last season, but abandonded it after going two-down.

"It came into my thoughts to play 3-5-2,’’ admitted Cooper. “

"But I looked at their system and the way Tranmere and Carlisle lined up against them and having worked with the lads, their system, I didn't feel, was going to cause us too many problems.

"The full-backs were comfortable if they had to deal with the wing backs coming on.

"With a bit more quality, I think we realised that there was places and ways we could have caused them problems.

"It didn't quite happen, if I'm honest. In order to play against that system, the ball you play up has to stick first and then you play off that.

"There wasn't enough real quality from us to go and win the game but I didn't think we deserved to lose the game.’’