LUKE WILLIAMS has said a big thank-you to Hartlepool United supporters for sticking with him.

The attacker has not appeared in a competitive game for Pools after signing last August, following an injury-ravaged season.

But he made a welcome return in Saturday’s pre-season friendly with Sheffield United Under-23s, netting the final goal with a stylish finish from distance as Pools won 4-2.

“It’s been a long, hard road and it felt great going out there. I got a good applause from the crowd which gave me a lift,’’ Williams told Pools website. “It’s been hard for supporters and hard for me – you get ones who aren’t on your side and the majority stand by you and it means a lot to hear that.’’

He added: “It’s been frustrating as I’ve wanted to play in pre-season, but I’ve made all the training sessions and I think we’ve done it the right way. This was a good workout and hopefully get more next time.

“It’s about physical and mental, things are different in a proper game like this.’’

Liam Noble and Jason Kennedy put Pools two goals up, before the Blades got one back and Kennedy added his second.

Williams’ finish, curled high into the net from 20 yards, came after the Blades made it 3-2.

The attacker admitted: “It was a massive relief to score – last kick and it was a good win.

“We’ve been practising that all week in training, after every session we go and do a bit extra and it came off in a game

“I won’t get ahead of myself and the build up has been great and not rushed and I think we will see the benefits.

“It’s great to have that support, they want to see me out there and for the crowd to stick with me as long as they have, it’s testament to the them.’’

Of Williams, Hignett added: “It’s been tough for him and he’s been ready and wanting to play, but I wanted him to be right and not limp through games.

“You can see his quality, within minutes he was in the game and he does what he does. He almost scored straight away, but his goal was a real piece of quality and I’m excited for the fans and for him too.

“He’s a great finisher, one of the best at the club and he should be playing higher if it wasn’t for injuries he’s had. Hopefully he’s on the right track and is looking good, but not up to full pelt yet but I’m excited to have him.’’

Josh Hawkes suffered a hamstring injury in the closing minutes and will be out for up to a month.

Pools: Killip, Richardson (Kioso 69), Raynes (Anderson 69), Kerr (Cunningham 80), Crichlow-Noble (Kitching 46), Mafuta (Holohan 69), Noble (Bale 80), Kennedy (Featherstone 55), Toure (Williams 61), Kabamba (Muir 59), James (Hawkes 80).