Mark Cooper has today praised Luke James for his influential return to the Barrow AFC side.

The forward got his first start for nearly two months in last weekend’s victory at Colchester United.

James started in an attacking line-up that also included new loan pair Will Harris and Jacob Wakeling.

The 27-year-old’s experience came to the fore in the Bluebirds’ 2-0 win.

And, speaking ahead of this weekend’s home clash with Mansfield Town, manager Cooper says James’ ability to make his mark was never in question.

“We were never in doubt about Luke’s contribution,” Cooper said.

“We know he’s a top pro and he works his socks off.

“He’s had a fragmented season with injury, and he’s starting to get himself in tip-top shape now, which is good for us.

“I knew that by playing him just behind two forwards, if we were under pressure he would be able to get back in and do some work in the middle of the pitch – and when we did counter and get the ball into him, he was able to look after it and bring people into play.”

James’ start in Essex was his first since the home defeat to Crawley in November.

Cooper must now decide whether to keep the former Hartlepool man in his XI to face Mansfield.

Harris and Wakeling will be hoping to make their home debuts in the Holker Street clash against Nigel Clough’s side.

Cooper said he wants to see a continued consistency of performance if Barrow are to make further progress in the second half of the season.

He added: “Three points [such as last weekend’s] are always welcome.

“I’ve spoken in the last few months about performances, and if you keep getting performances, we’ll get points.

“We’ve just got to keep going now, we’ve got to keep focused, got to get used to getting points. That’s where we want to be.”