TONY Mowbray refuses to be drawn on his interest in Hartlepool United goalkeeper Scott Flinders – but admits new faces are still his priority.
The Pools goalkeeper was the star man during Boro’s goalless draw at Victoria Park on Saturday, a second-half penalty save from Lucas Jutkiewicz among a host of other fine stops.
With the future of Jason Steele still the subject of some uncertainty, Flinders could well fit the bill were the England Under-21 netminder to move on.
Pools boss Colin Cooper insists that his No 1 is going nowhere, and that is a stance which former team-mate Mowbray respects.
“He was tremendous (on Saturday), but I think he was last year as well to be fair,” said Mowbray.
“He was great against us last year and is obviously a talented young goalkeeper.
“But it’s not for me to talk about Hartlepool’s goalkeeper, other than that he made some fantastic saves and did very well in one-on-one situations.”
Mowbray fielded what is arguably his strongest XI against Pools, but the Riverside chief says that he is in desperate need of reinforcements.
“I hope there’ll be players arriving,” he said.
“If you look at the team at the weekend, everybody apart from the goalkeeper and Woody (Jonathan Woodgate) got 90 minutes.
“Underneath that, we’ve got very, very young players.
“If I’d made changes at Hartlepool, they would have been young footballers under the age of 21 or 22.
“It’s imperative that if we’re going to try to sustain a Championship challenge this year, we need some depth to our squad.
“While the players on the pitch showed they can play as a unit and be competitive, we ultimately know that injuries and suspensions will come around the corner.
“To replace good players with good players is ultimately what football as a squad game is about.”
Boro’s chances on Saturday were not of the “half” variety, the majority involved Lucas Jutkiewicz staring into the eyes of his opponent, his nemesis Scott Flinders, in fact.
And the striker just could not negotiate a way beyond the Pools keeper.
Common wisdom tells you that his best opportunity was from the penalty spot. It was not.
There were two later one-on-one situations in which Jutkiewicz had the chance to exact revenge. He could not.
Afterwards, the pair embraced, a friendly exchange in which the striker poured praise over the custodian.
Had this been a competitive fixture then the red-shirted and equally red-faced Jutkiewicz might not have been so keen to extol the virtues of Flinders.
How the Boro man will be hoping that the gloved-wonder does not end up at a Championship rival in the near future.
But more of that penalty save.
With the game deadlocked on 73 minutes, Pools skipper Antony Sweeney extended a lethargic limb and felled Marvin Emnes, no doubting the subsequent award of the spot-kick.
Jutkiewicz had already been thwarted by Flinders on at least three occasions and so his election as taker was, perhaps, not wise.
Striding onto the ball he unleashed an uncompromising blast towards Flinders’ bottom corner.
Diving low to his right, Flinders produced the most resistant of wrists to repel the forward’s blast.
Hartlepool United: Flinders, Austin (Richards 86), Hartley (Holden 46), Walton (Walker 46), Collins, Baldwin, Franks, Sweeney, James (Howard 75), Monkhouse (Poole 46), Compton (Rodney 75). Unused subs: Rafferty.
Boro: Steele (Leutwiler 46), Parnaby, Woodgate (Burgess 60), R Williams, Gibson, Emnes, Whitehead, Leadbitter, Varga, Carayol, Jutkiewicz. Unused subs: Bennett, Reach, Smallwood, Ledesma.