Back-up keeper Bartlett vows to keep Hartlepool United star Carson on his toes

Adam Bartlett makes a great save in Pools' EFL Cup defeat at Preston. Picture by Howard Roe/ AHPIX.com.
Adam Bartlett makes a great save in Pools' EFL Cup defeat at Preston. Picture by Howard Roe/ AHPIX.com.

Playing the role of understudy is the hardest job in any business.

You face the possibility of never being required on the big stage and, if or when you are, you have to perform so the audience can see no difference.

I’m under no illusions, I’ve had to be patient, given Trevor’s form. He’s been outstanding

ADAM BARTLETT

Top marks then to Adam Bartlett who was outstanding for Hartlepool United in Tuesday night’s EFL Cup clash at Preston North End.

The 30-year-old was unlucky to finish on the losing side, conceding the winner in the fourth minute of stoppage time, with Pools just seconds away from extra-time and penalties a real possibility.

Tomorrow, though, it’s back to the bench for Barts as Trevor Carson returns in goal for Pools at Exeter City.

Carson was given a rest at Deepdale and while ‘normal service’ is resumed at St James’s Park, Bartlett plans to keep the Pools number one “on his toes”.

“It was nice to be back out there with the boys on Tuesday,” Bartlett told SportMail.

“It’s been a long time. I think I was on the bench for 39 consecutive games.

“I’ve tended to be the number one at previous clubs, so it’s been tough, but it’s understandable given Trev’s form.

“But I am a professional – my job is when he’s in the team I need to keep him on his toes, push him as hard as I can.

“Hopefully if he can feel me breathing down his neck behind him that can only lead to good performances from him.

“Obviously last season he was outstanding, a multiple player of the year and he thoroughly deserved his awards.

“Ultimately, whoever is in goal, whether it’s Trev or me, if he’s playing well it means Hartlepool United are doing well.”

Bartlett admits his first appearance since the 2-1 defeat at Northampton last October came as a shock, a pleasant one.

The Geordie started last season as No 1 following his summer 2015 move from Gateshead and was in superb form while Carson was out with a toe problem.

And Bartlett has shown in midweek at Deepdale that, should he be required again, he’s more than up to the task.

“It was definitely a surprise,” he said.

“Obviously, we weren’t sure what the gaffer was going to do in terms of resting players.

“But we know it’s a busy schedule in the first few weeks of the season and he decided to give breathers to some of the lads.

“I was more than happy to get the chance.

That was my first senior appearance since mid-October, so I was delighted to be out there.

“I’m under no illusions. I’ve had to be patient, given Trevor’s form.

“He’s been outstanding

“But I’ve tried to come back for pre-season fitter

“I was 86 kilos and I’ve come back at 81, so I think that’s eight or nine pounds.

“I feel better for it, I feel sharper as well as leaner, I’m lighter around the goal and I hope that brings only positive performances to try to keep Trevor on his toes

“I’m looking to push him for the number one place.”

Boss Craig Hignett doesn’t do anything on a whim.

His decision to play Bartlett in midweek – and have young prospect Ben Dudzinski on the bench – was done for a reason.

Carson is in contention for a place between the sticks for Northern Ireland.

While he missed the cut for Euro 2016, the 28-year-old is in the thoughts of boss Michael O’Neill for the World Cup qualifying campaign.

“There is the potential of Trevor being involved on Northern Ireland duty,” said Bartlett.

“I think the first internationals are around September time.

“Maybe it was a case if he did get the nod for international recognition, which we hope he will get, that I’m not coming into the side cold.

“Having played on Tuesday, it means I wouldn’t be coming into the side cold, I’d have at least one game under my belt.”

Bartlett has done his chances no harm at all with his display at Deepdale.

There were a number of good stops, especially the save late on from Eoin Doyle, who, eventually, bagged the winner.

“ I thought I did OK,” he said. “There are a couple of things I’d liked to have done better, but, having been out for so long, I’ve got to be happy with how it went overall.

“The last-minute heartbreak was a bit of a nightmare. It would have been nice to have kept that clean sheet and taken them to extra-time and see where it went from there.”