ANDY Rafferty hopes he has given Colin Cooper a selection headache ahead of Hartlepool United’s vital clash with League Two promotion favourites Chesterfield.
The 25-year-old was thrust into the starting XI for the first time this season when Pools visited relegation battlers Portsmouth.
Rafferty took over between the sticks from Scott Flinders, who was suffering from a migraine.
And the keeper, from Durham, produced an excellent display in the 1-0 defeat at a raucous Fratton Park.
He was beaten inside 80 seconds by Adam Webster who had a simple tap in after being the first to react to Rafferty’s diving save to keep out Ryan Taylor’s header.
And he was a hero in the third minute, again throwing himself to his right, to beat out Taylor’s left-footed penalty after Christain Burgess brought down Wes Fogden.
Rafferty was superb throughout, though the odds surely are on Flinders to return this Saturday for the visit of the Spireites.
But the tall stopper, whose only previous start was a 0-0 draw at Scunthorpe two seasons ago, is hoping he can keep the jersey.
“I was disappointed with the result but, from a personal point of view, I thought I did all right,” said the modest Rafferty, whose only previous appearance this season was as a sub in the Capital One Cup at Nottingham Forest.
“I thought I’d done all right against Forest, when I looked
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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.
“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 if there are days like Saturday when I get an opportunity to show the gaffer what I’ve got, hopefully it’s good enough to keep him out of the team.
“I got an inkling on Thursday I might be involved because Scott was struggling with a bit of sickness for a couple of days.
“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.”
There was frustration for Rafferty that he even conceded one, after making the second-minute save from Taylor’s header.
“I thought I’d done enough with the initial save and you hope it might get mopped up,” he said. “But their player has had a tap in from a couple of yards.”
Rafferty though loved his day on the south coast, his third year at Pools coming to a happy conclusion after an injury-plagued middle season.
“It was my first 90 minutes since my knee operation so I’m delighted but it would haven nice to have had a performance and the three points,” he said.
“I thoroughly enjoyed myself to be honest, it’s not very often you get the chance to play in front of such a big crowd.
“I got a few comments from behind the goal about going home in an ambulance!
“But I thrive on stuff like that, that’s what I got into professional football for.
“If you don’t enjoy playing football on a stage like that, you shouldn’t be playing football.”