Middlesbrough goalie can keep Hartlepool United in Football League

Joe Fryer of Hartlepool United is congratulated by his team mates after saving  a penalty at Notts County. Picture by Mark Fletcher

Joe Fryer of Hartlepool United is congratulated by his team mates after saving a penalty at Notts County. Picture by Mark Fletcher

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Hartlepool United are in safe hands with Joe Fryer in their struggle for Football League survival.

That was the backing from defender Liam Donnelly as Pools go into the final five games of the season with a comparative rookie between the sticks.

He’s come in here and been confident and there’s no reason why he shouldn’t be

LIAM DONNELLY

Fryer joined on loan from Middlesbrough in January when new boss Dave Jones wanted competition for then first choice Adam Bartlett.

But after three games on the bench as understudy to the Geordie, Jones changed keepers and Fryer has reeled off 11 straight matches.

Jones subsequently allowed Bartlett to leave the club to take up a job as a coach at Middlesbrough’s Academy, leaving Pools with two largely-untried goalies in their squad – Ben Dudzinski on the bench has even less experience than the young man currently in nets.

But Fryer has impressed team-mates, management and fans a like with some excellent displays and Donnelly says there is complete faith in the Chester-le-Street-born stopper.

“Joe’s done well for us so far and hopefully he continues to do that,” Donnelly told SportMail.

“He’s played well for Middlesbrough Under 23 before he came here by all accounts.

“He’s come in here and been confident and there’s no reason why he shouldn’t be.”

Fryer has all the attributes needed for a keeper.

He stands comfortably over 6ft, allowing him to command the air, can kick the ball prodigious distances and, most crucially, can stop shots and headers.

The Boro keeper was in good form on Saturday at Morecambe, where he produced some top drawer saves.

Having been a virtual spectator for the first half, he was called upon to make a good stop at his near post from Paul Mullin at the end of the opening period and then when Pools were creaking after the break, he dived low to his left to deny Kevin Ellison.

“Joe was very good, he’s done well,” said Donnelly, who was playing at left-back.

Fryer had, on occasions, been perhaps too quick to leave his line and come a long way out when his defenders could deal with the danger but has reined in his movement a little.

But Donnelly says the keeper’s enthusiasm should not be checked.

“He’s so young and still learning,” said the Irishman, “Joe’s just doing his best to help his team out, he’s been great.”

Fryer will be a key man for Pools on Good Friday when they host Carlisle United at the Norther Gas & Power Stadium.

Pools are in desperate need of three points – or at least one – to stay out of the bottom two.

Jones’s side put an end to the losing run at Morecambe on Saturday when they drew 1-1.

Donnelly thought the side should have taken victory, but says it could be a vital point.

“It’s better than losing,” said Donnelly. “I am happier with one than none, but hopefully we can get two wins from the next two.

“Friday will be a massive game, a bit of a derby, hopefully we’ll go into it confident.”

Donnelly says the team spirit and backing of the supporters will be crucial to their chances.

“We are confident in our own ability,” said the Northern Ireland U21 defender.

“The fans have been unbelievable as well.

“Hopefully we’ll get through it by getting a few wins to stay up.”