IT’S been a fair wait for Andy Rafferty. The Hartlepool United goalkeeper has long been on stand-by.
He signed for Pools in 2010 and, since making his debut in 2001, he’s watched Scott Flinders play week in, week out.
Last Saturday, however, his waiting game was over and he made only his second start and fourth appearance for the club, with Flinders ruled out of the trip to Portsmouth with a migrane.
Making his first save on 80 seconds and conceding three seconds later wasn’t ideal. Nor was facing a penalty two minutes later, but he saved the spot kick and Pools remained in the game.
But he was one the rare Pools players to emerge with any credit last weekend and did more than enough to keep his spot against Chesterfield this afternoon at Victoria Park.
“I got an inkling on Thursday because Scott was struggling with a bit of sickness for a couple of days,’’ he reflected.
“I've gone the right way for the pen and then got a bit of luck when the lad's put the rebound over.
“It's a shame we couldn't have kicked on from there.
“I thought I'd done enough with the initial save and you hope it might get mopped up but their player has had a tap in from a couple of yards
“Saving the penalty? It was an educated guess!’’
Boss Colin Cooper will have to decide between the two this afternoon and admitted: “Andy did well last week and had a busy start. From his point of view it was a good reaction. When you see him work every day, you ask is there any issue over his period of time here, has he seen times when he could have been given an opportunity.
“He could possibly see times like that, but last week he reacted well, did as good a job he could have. Do I continue that or go back to Scott? It’s discussions to have before the game.’’
When Flinders had an uncomfortable time around the turn of the year, Rafferty could have been pitched in. Instead, Cooper stuck with Flinders and was rewarded as Pools only conceded one goal in six games.
Rafferty played 45 minutes of the Capital One Cup defeat at Nottingham Forest in August, replacing injured Flinders and since then has been a spectator.
The former Guisborough Town and Horden keeper admitted: “In my opinion I have been ready since the start of the season so hopefully I have given the gaffer a headache.
“I was disappointed with the result last week, but from a personal point of view I thought I did all right.
“I thought I'd done all right against Forest, when I looked back I thought I may be could have done a bit better, but that is me being a bit picky.
“I'd like to think I've held my own when I've been called upon.’’
He added: “I look to learn from Scott in training, he's one of the best in the league.
“It's up to me to keep my head down, keep working and hopefully if there are days like Saturday if I get an opportunity to show the gaffer what I've got hopefully it's good enough to keep him out of the team.
“We are a tight unit, Scotty's a good lad, he helps me out. If I've ever got any questions he's always willing to point me in the right direction.
“I thought I did well I was pleased with my performance.’’
Rafferty will have on loan Sunderland defender Scott Harrison starting today in place of Christian Burgess, who has an ankle injury.
The centre-half is one of two prospects at Pools from the Stadium of Light, Connor Oliver being the other.
“When I spoke to Sunderland about Scott and Connor it was on the proviso we'd had people injured or close to suspension,’’ said Cooper. “
“Could both Scott and Connor come into our team? I don't see an issue. Scott is a good centre-half, he's aggressive and he can handle the ball.
“Saturday is a really good challenge for him and I think he's someone who will look forward to that challenge.
“It will be a great spectacle and a good advert for League Two.
“If I'm Scott I'd be looking at the forward players who play for Chesterfield and Think this is a really good challenge for someone coming out of development football.
“Can he handle the physicality? I believe he can. Can he handle the football technically? We saw him step forward at Portsmouth, drop a shoulder and beat a forward and then play a ball wide.’’
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