It has been a week to remember already for Joe Rafferty. He made his PNE debut at Ewood Park and then played over 70 minutes in the side’s first league win on Teesside since 1972.
The January transfer window recruit from Rochdale has had to be patient in waiting for his chance to show what he is capable of, but after a fleeting appearance in the derby day win over Blackburn Rovers, he played his part in a memorable win over Middlesbrough on Wednesday night.
Speaking to PNE.Com as the players returned to Springfields just hours after landing back home from the north east, the No.15 admitted it had already been a positive few days for him.
“It has been a good week. I got one touch against Blackburn in the last two minutes, but it was just good to get on!” He joked. “It was a good feeling to play my first game and it was an even better feeling to come on and get the three points [at Middlesbrough]. It was fantastic.
“It is a great place to play and a good stadium and I couldn’t wait to get on. It was unfortunate for Browney, but I have kept myself ticking over and made sure that I was ready, no matter what, to make sure that I was ready to go on. The gaffer always says to all the subs ‘make sure you are ready’ and I prepared well throughout the week and luckily I got my chance and we got the win.
“It was a tough game to go into. When I was going on I was thinking ‘this isn’t the easiest game to go on to’. It was not like we were 3-0 up and I could go on and ease my way into it. I was going at it straight away and that was a good think, because I was straight into the mix. I was looking around the pitch and I am not particularly small myself, but I felt small compared to some of the giants they had!”
And to then be part of the side’s turnaround of the clash at the Riverside Stadium was something he always believed would be possible.
“It was a great feeling to be part of that comeback,” continued the 25-year-old. “At half-time we still believed. We never ruled ourselves out of the game.
“We came back in; we just need to get our heads together, because we know we are a good team and we know we can turn things around and we just need to turn it around and fortunately enough we did that.”
The goals came from Paul Gallagher and Jayden Stockley and the Scouser was delighted for both his team-mates: “I went and congratulated Gally this morning on 100 goals – that is some achievement. He has great quality – Premier League quality – and I was made up for him. It was a great goal for us and then I was buzzing with Jayden scoring the winner. I get on really well with Jayden and I was so happy when he scored.
“It felt like a big win on the pitch. When they went down to ten men we were thinking ‘we have a good chance to go and beat them’, and we could have sat off and taken a draw and people might have thought that was a good result, but we thought ‘let’s go for the win’ and we were brave enough to do that and we got it.
“It was a great game to be involved in, because it had a bit of everything. Once they were down to ten men, they were sat in and you had to think a lot more about how to break them down and how to get in behind them, which is always difficult, especially against a Tony Pulis team – who is a top manager.
“Once we got in front they then threw everything at it and we had to think again about how to be defensively strong and I don’t think once we were ahead, even though they threw everything at it, they didn’t really create anything, which was good for us.
“It meant a lot to us. We had Jordan [Storey], Davo [Ben Davies] and Hughesie [Andrew Hughes] defending unbelievably and then when we need it we had Jayden Stockley coming back and heading balls. He was heading it at centre half and then next minute he was heading one up front. It just shows how much it meant to everything; they are all willing to work for each other and that’s why they are a great sat of lads in there.”
And with the last of three tough games in a week just 48 hours away, he is now looking forward to more, having got the taste for life in lilywhite… or green!
“It is good for us. We have a good bit of momentum going into the Birmingham game on Saturday. We will just go out there, do our best, like we do every game – no matter who the manager selects, no matter who is on the bench, everyone is going to prepare well, do their best for the team and hopefully we can get a good result and then had a short break the week after,” he added.