Aynsley Pears has 'set the standard' at Middlesbrough says on loan goalkeeper
Middlesbrough prospect Zack Hemming believes that Aynsley Pears has “set the standard” for the young goalkeepers at the club.
Pears has shone since he was handed his first league start by Jonathan Woodgate in the 2-2 home draw against Hull City in November.
The 21-year-old impressed the Boro boss sufficiently to keep his place ever since and will head into Saturday’s FA Cup Third Round tie against Spurs after conceding just one goal in his last four appearances for the club.
Much was expected of Pears when he returned to Boro in the summer after he impressed during a season-long loan spell at Gateshead.
Hemming and fellow Boro keeper Brad James have both followed Pears’ lead in joining non-league clubs on loan this season and the duo came face-to-face on New Year’s Day as Hemming’s Blyth Spartans secured a dramatic 3-3 draw against North East rivals Gateshead at Croft Park.
After the game, the 19-year-old discussed the challenge that lies ahead of him as he looks to emulate Pears by challenging for a place in Boro’s first-team squad.
He told The Mail: “Aynsley did well at Gateshead last season.
“He went out and got game-time at a good standard of football.
“He played regularly, and he’s been given a chance in first team now because of what he did last season at Gateshead.
“He’s set the standard for young goalkeepers at Middlesbrough and he is doing what we are all trying to achieve.”
Hemming has made himself a popular figure amongst the Spartans support since joining the National League North strugglers in November.
The 19-year-old saw a loan spell with Hartlepool United cut short to allow him to move to Croft Park and he has impressed during his time in Northumberland – despite seeing his new side win just two of the eight games in which he has featured.
And he was in the limelight once again in the dramatic draw against Gateshead as he saved a penalty from Heed captain Scott Barrow just moments after being shown a yellow card for attempting to put off the Welshman ahead of the late spot-kick.
The duo clashed again in injury-time as Hemming raced the length of the field to celebrate in front of Barrow and a number of his team-mates following a dramatic late equaliser by Spartans striker Levi Amantchi.
The Croft Park club are currently in the midst of a relegation battle in the National League North and currently lie five points from safety.
But despite their struggles, Hemming is enjoying life with Lee Clark’s side and is hopeful that he can repay their faith by helping them stay in non-league football’s second-tier.
“It’s just to give them (Spartans supporters) something back,” explained the youngster.
“We celebrate with them because they turn out in numbers every week, they go away from, miles away like King’s Lynn and they still turn out in good numbers.
“So, we celebrate with them because they’re really good supporters.
“It’s a good-sized club and it should be where it is really.
“I am here until the end of the season and hopefully I can help them stay in a league where they should be.”