Hughes sings the praises of his on-form defensive duo

LUKE JAMES might have stolen the headlines, but John Hughes doesn’t want anyone to forget the impact of Peter Hartley in seeing off Leyton Orient.

Not only did the centre-half head in an 88th minute equaliser to set the stage for James to dramatically win the game, Hughes was pleased with how both Hartley and defensive partner Sam Collins kept Pools in the game.

Gone are the days when Pools shipped a pack of goals weekly, and the central defensive partnership is proving a tight one.

“It’s probably the first time on a Friday this week we have never had a team meeting,’’ revealed Hughes. “I left it for a purpose. I wanted to see who are my leaders, the lieutenants on the pitch, who could come up trumps?

“The two centre-backs were immense again. Sam is rolling back the years, cruising it winning headers and tackles. Peter getting in form, Evan, Aussie took a sore one and got on with it, midfielders battled away, boys up front gave us plenty of energy.’’ Victory means Pools have taken 11 points from their last possible 15. They go to Scunthorpe on Saturday and Hughes said: “It’s so pleasing for everyone, the players have responded to the challenge ahead of us. All I keep saying is give yourself a chance.

“We are off the bottom, there’s some big games to come and we get carried away when we score, but it’s nice to go and enjoy it. Lifting off the bottom, we are all positive.

“The only negative is the penalty we conceded – a shocker and I asked for an explanation from the referee.

Aussie’s hand was there in a natural position and he said the ball was going to an Orient player who might have scored.

“It was handball, but it’s all about interpretation. It goes against you and you feel bad. But we scrapped it out.’’ Hughes added: “I felt we played some nice football at times, but lacked a killer instinct. Scoring so late – I’m so delighted.

“It says Never Say Die on the shirts and that was what it was all about.

“I got pelters from one guy behind the dug outs all day – when we scored the winner I got a kiss!

“But the fans go away delighted, enjoy an extra pint and it makes everyone feel better for it.’’

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