ANDY Rafferty will be thrown in for just his second professional start this weekend – but Hartlepool manager Mick Wadsworth insists the rookie goalkeeper is well-equipped to handle the pressure.
Pools are without regular keeper Scott Flinders, who serves a one-match suspension for being sent off during Saturday’s 1-0 FA Cup defeat against Stevenage.
That means he misses this Saturday’s League One clash at Scunthorpe United, handing Rafferty – who played for 80 minutes at the weekend – another chance to impress.
“It’s a great opportunity for Andy,” Wadsworth said today.
“I thought he did very well against Stevenage when he came on. He made two great saves, he came and punched one and was very close to the penalty. I was very pleased with him.
“It was a good performance for him and I’ve no problem there. He’ll be playing on Saturday.”
Rafferty signed for Pools in the summer of 2010 but made just one appearance last season and, until Saturday, that remained his sole outing in the senior game.
Wadsworth admits he had reservations about using the young goalie in the wake of Flinders’ thumb-ligament injury 12 months ago and, as a result, recruited Jake Kean in a loan deal from Blackburn Rovers.
But such has been the improvement made on the training pitch with goalkeeping coach Gary Walsh over the past year, the Pools chief believes Rafferty is now ready for his big chance.
“He’s come on nicely,” he said. “A year ago he was maybe still a little green around the gills but now he’s come on leaps and bounds and it’s a great chance for him.
“He’s a quiet, hard-working lad who has come from non-league. He’s done his gym work and is in fantastic condition.”
Academy goalkeeper Liam Mooney could be included among the substitutes at Scunthorpe, but Wadsworth may well decide to go without a reserve stopper as he has done on two occasions already this season.