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Rafferty earns Cooper's praise
FOR Colin Cooper and Hartlepool United, there was little to be even remotely satisfied about on Saturday.
The performance of goalkeeper Andy Rafferty, however was some comfort.
Rafferty, a former Northern League goalkeeper, was called up for only his second start as a professional footballer.
With Scott Flinders suffering from a migrane, Rafferty made his first appearance since a 0-0 draw at Scunthorpe in November 2011.
“Andy can do no more and he’s certainly one to come out this afternoon with some credit,’’ said Cooper. “We all want to finish the season strongly and we have one month to play for our futures, it’s as simple as that.’’ Rafferty saved a fourthminute penalty, two minutes after he was beaten for the only time, but impressed with his positional sense and handling.
“It was my first 90 minutes since my knee operation so I’m delighted but it would have been nice to have had a performance and the three points,’’ reflected the ex-Horden and Guisborough stopper.
“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.’’ His only other first-team outing this season came on a similar big stage when he replaced Flinders at half-time in the Capital One Cup tie at Nottingham Forest in August.
Now Cooper must decide wether to recall Flinders or retain Rafferty for the weekend’s home game with Chesterfield.
Cooper, however, is demanding more from his players.
“The brutal, honest truth – and I’ve said this to the lads – is that the first-half isn’t anywhere near good enough if you want to be a professional footballer,’’ he said.
“It’s nowhere near good enough by any stretch, but at least we got a bit more in the second-half and had a couple of half sniffs of their goal, but nothing else.
“We had a few half openings.
The challenge set at half-time was not to concede and see what happens and at least we had a couple of openings in the second-half.
“Sometimes you can’t be all free-flowing football with clever passes like we have been on occasions. Sometimes you have to roll your sleeves up and dig in.’’ Defender Christian Burgess was carried off with an ankle injury, which will be assessed today. He was replaced by Sunderland loanee Scott Harrison, who made his Football League debut.