OPPORTUNITY knocks for rookie AFC Totton goalkeeper Ross Casey at the Testwood Stadium tomorrow.
With the Stags’ regular No1 Gareth Barfoot, pictured, starting a hefty five-match suspension, youth team graduate Casey has the chance to impress on the Southern Premier stage at home to Banbury United.
Having guaranteed himself a three-match ban for a head butt at Hitchin two weeks ago, Barfoot compounded the crime with a second dismissal at Stourbridge just four days later.
That ensured he would sit out another game for denying a goalscoring opportunity and one more on top for back-to-back red cards.
While Barfoot’s experience is bound to be missed, Stags boss Steve Riley is hopeful Casey will grasp his opportunity with both hands.
“He’s already played some first-team football and done himself justice and he’s at a stage where he needs to be tested,” he said. “Ross has patiently travelled round with the squad, sat on the bench and come on once or twice and played in the Hampshire Senior Cup. Now this is his chance to build up some experience at Southern Premier level.
“It will be a test of his mental toughness and concentration levels and I’m sure Ross will relish the challenge.
“It’s good for him to be starting with a home game and hopefully he’ll take it in his stride, do the business and say I’m good enough to play at this level.”
Wide man Luke Roberts, another exciting home-grown player, is now a regular face in the first-team squad, but Riley will not rush the youngsters through.
“Luke started at Barwell last week having been on here and there in games, but he was back on the bench on Tuesday,” said the boss.
“You need a level of consistency in the Southern Premier which comes with experience.
“It’s times like these when you find out about the depth of your squad.”