After failing to make any attacking inroads so far this season, Hartlepool United finally discovered where the opposition goal is.
Before their Johnstone’s Paint Trophy tie with Bradford City, Pool had only scored one measly goal in six games. Last night they scored five, two of them coming in just three second-half minutes.
While their performances to date under Colin Cooper had been a mixture of frustration and promise, this one was on a different level.
Cooper will hope it sets them up nicely for back to back home games to come in League Two.
Luke James was full of pace and direct running. After an encouraging 45 minute performance at Torquay at the weekend, he was given a start ahead of the injured Steve Howard. And how he took his opportunity. He scored one and ran the visiting back four ragged with his pace and direct nature.
The Bantams, League Cup finalists last season, started brightly and had a decent opening when Rory McArdle flashed a header across the face of goal on 20 minutes.
It wasn’t long, however, before Pool were in front. Jon Franks crossed deep, Jack Compton headed the ball back across goal and James was on hand to head in from eight yards.
It was the first time they had been in front in a game this season. But instead of suffering from stage fright, they relished the job of keeping an advantage.
Keeper Connor Ripley saved an Andy Monkhouse header and, two minutes later, right-back Stephen Darby had to clear from a dangerous James cross.
Pool could have got a second before the break, Bradley Walker knocking a shot at goal in a scramble only for his effort to be blocked on the line. But Pool didn’t have to wait long for a second goal – and they got three in ten minutes.
Franks broke away and, rather than feed the unmarked James, he shot at goal. The effort was blocked, but he was alert to collect the loose ball and crash past Ripley from 18 yards. James’ pace earned a free-kick on the left, taken by Compton and it was firmly met by Christian Burgess who headed in his first goal since moving on loan from Middlesbrough. Two minutes later came another. James was felled in the area and Compton’s spot kick wasn’t going to be kept out.
Pool completed the rout – and in style on 88 minutes. Franks crossed and substitute Nialle Rodney spectacularly turned in an overhead kick.
HARTLEPOOL UNITED: Flinders; Duckworth, Baldwin, Burgess, Austin; Franks, Walker (Walton 68), Dolan, Compton (Poole 76); Monkhouse, James (Rodney 68). Subs (not used): Rafferty (gk), Collins.
Goals: James 24, Franks 48, Burgess 56, Compton pen 58, Rodney 88.
Booked: Burgess, Baldwin.
BRADFORD CITY: Ripley; Darby, Taylor, McArdle (Connell 46), Meredith (McHugh 46); De Vita, Kennedy, Doyle, Ravenhill, Yeates; Thompson (Reid 75). Subs not used: McLaughlin, Wells.
Referee: Richard Clark (Morpeth)