Pope determined to grab first team chance with both hands

BIG CHANCE: Nick Pope pushes out an effort from former club Ipswich Town on Saturday after stepping into the limelight at Charlton Athletic
BIG CHANCE: Nick Pope pushes out an effort from former club Ipswich Town on Saturday after stepping into the limelight at Charlton Athletic
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Despite Nick Pope’s despair at conceding a late winner against former club Ipswich Town, he is determined to earn his chance to avenge it.

The ex-Bury Town goalkeeper, whose family are all big Ipswich fans, would love nothing more than to keep hold of the number one spot in Charlton Athletic’s starting XI for when the Addicks travel to Suffolk on December 30 (7.45pm).

The 22-year-old has been handed a chance in the absence of injured Stephen Henderson — who joined from West Ham United in the summer — and was less than a minute away from recording his second clean sheet in as many games when substitute Noel Hunt broke home hearts.

“I don’t think we deserved that,” Pope told the Free Press after the game, which had seen him go under the glare of the Sky television cameras, who were broadcasting the second-tier clash live. “I thought a draw was a fair result.

“It is gutting when it happens like that but that is football and it is up to all us boys to bounce back now and show some character.”

But with Pope immediately focusing on retaining his place for the trip to Nottingham Forest on Saturday (3pm), he will also hope to still be in the side by the time they travel to Portman Road, where his father David has a season ticket.

“I have no grudge against Ipswich Town at all,” he said, having revealed in the days leading up to Saturday’s game that mum Bridget’s persuasion stopped him giving up on his football career dream after being released from Town as a 15-year-old. “I think it was the right decision for them to release me as it was the best thing for all parties.”

Pope — the younger brother of Josh, who keeps goal for Mildenhall Town — had to endure an intimidating ride in the first half, with more than 2,500 travelling Ipswich fans behind him, but managed to do enough to turn a long-range effort from in-form Daryl Murphy behind, as well as pushing a David McGoldrick header out for a corner.

But after a quiet second half for the former King’s School Ely pupil, who grew up in Wicken, near Soham, he felt he was powerless to prevent Mick McCarthy’s side taking all three points.

“I would not say it was a clean strike, but it has gone in between bodies and it has gone into the corner and there was nothing I could really do,” he said. “In the game, I thought I did okay, I thought we did look quite solid at the back, especially in the second half where I did not have much to do.

“I made a couple of saves first half, but nothing unbelievable and I do not think they really cut us open.”

But with Charlton manger Bob Peeters deciding to bring Philippines international keeper Neil Etheridge back on loan from Oldham before the emergency loan window closed on Thursday, with Henderson still nursing a shoulder injury, Pope is certainly not taking his run in the first-team for granted.

“I am obviously happy to get a chance, coming off the back of the end of last season at York (loan), but taking it is an ongoing process,” he added. “Not many keepers even get a chance to prove themselves in the Championship and it is now up to me to make the most of that.

“I am just trying to get clean sheets and if it had been two in a row today, which we were so close to, I would have obviously been delighted.

“But it was just not meant to be and the even bigger thing for us now is to bounce back from a setback like today.”