ANDY Rafferty had waited a long time for his chance.
A long, long time – 114 games or 10,260 minutes to be precise.
Rafferty replaced the ill Scott Flinders at Portsmouth last Saturday and produced a penalty save and man of the match performance.
It was his first league start since keeping a clean sheet in the 0-0 draw at Scunthorpe in League one ion November 2011.
And the man he replaced at Fratton Park last week could not have been happier.
Flinders travelled to the south coast but failed a Saturday morning fitness test and watched the League Two defeat from the main stand.
He watched with pride as Rafferty saved Ryan Taylor’s spot-kick – had that gone in and Pools gone 2-0 down in three minutes, goodness knows what might have happened.
“Andy did great,” Flinders told SportMail. “I’m really pleased for him.
“It’s always hard, being the number two at a club – I’ve been there, I know what it’s like.
“It’s difficult having to wait for your chance and I’m so happy for him.
“It’s the hardest position at a club, given there’s only one place.
“You have to be on your toes and ready – your chance could come at any given moment.
“He had his opportunity on Saturday and he did really well.
“I was in the stand and it was head in hands time when we conceded a penalty straight after going 1-0 down.
“Raff chose the right way and he kept us in the game.
“We could have may be nicked something at the end but it wasn’t meant to be.”
Flinders was taken ill at the end of a tumultuous week for the 27-year-old – his wife gave birth to daughter, Betsy, the previous Sunday.
“I think I’d just got a bit of flu, that’s all,” said the Yorkshireman.
“We’d had a little girl last Sunday so whether it’s something I’ve may be picked up in hospital, I don’t know.
“When I woke up on Thursday before Portsmouth I felt ill and then I had a fitness test on the day and I wasn’t right.
“I feel fine now though.”
The former Crystal Palace stopper, who has been at Pools five years, says he and Rafferty are pals, as well as rivals.
“We are friends,” he said of Rafferty, who joined Pools in the summer of 2010.
“All I can do is to give Raff the benefit of my experience, what I’ve been through.
“Being a goalie is a lonely position and I try to give him as much advice as possible to help him.
“He’s not a young lad any more at 25 but I do try to help because I’ve been in that situation.
“Hopefully he takes it on board, if not, he’s his own man.
“We are a good team, me, Raff and Jim [Provett] and we have to be.
“Goalkeeper is unique position, the outfield lads don’t get it.
“You have to be strong, you have to be thick-skinned at times.”
Flinders is likely to return tomorrow, though he is taking nothing for granted.
If selected, he is relishing a contest with one of the best sides in League Two.
Flinders kept a clean sheet in the first clash of the season with Chesterfield, Pools drawing 0-0 at the Proact Stadium on Boxing Day.
“We gave them a game and we could have won it at the end,” he said.
“We’ve both got things to play for – it’s set up to be a good game.
“They are fighting to be in the automatic places, and we need a couple of points to keep us comfortable.
“We’ve worked hard all week and we’ll be ready for tomorrow.”