Blackpool boss Simon Grayson will not rush returning keeper Mark Howard

Mark Howard will not be rushed back after featuring for the reserves in midweek
Mark Howard will not be rushed back after featuring for the reserves in midweek
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Simon Grayson has stressed he’s not prepared to rush goalkeeper Mark Howard back into first-team contention.

The 33-year-old had made his return from a seven-month injury lay-off to play 45 minutes of Blackpool’s 5-3 reserve defeat against Morecambe on Wednesday afternoon.

It was Howard’s first action for the Seasiders since undergoing surgery after rupturing his Achilles in the defeat to Burton Albion back in March.

While Howard says he’s ready whenever the manager calls upon him, Grayson stressed the club has got to be careful with the experienced shot-stopper.

The Seasiders’ manager told The Gazette: “It was a welcome back to football wasn’t it?

“Five goals were conceded in the game. But I think that was the perfect situation for him.

“While first-team coach Ian Dawes wasn’t happy because he doesn’t like to lose any game and concede goals, if Mark had been in a game where we had put a strong team out and hardly had a save to make it might have been a waste of time apart from him getting out there.

“But, during that 45 minutes, he was involved in a lot of stuff and had to make saves.

“He came through it with flying colours and he trained with us on Thursday morning and now continues to push for a full return soon.

“There’s no timescale really. There’s no reserve game next week so it’s about getting as much training as he can.

“If you were to ask Mark, he would have wanted to have played 90 minutes in the reserve game and he will want to be in contention for the first team on Monday.

“But we’ve got to be very careful with him, even though he’s done everything the physio has wanted him to do.

“It’s just the character that he is that he wants to be back in amongst the players, which is great to have.

“There will come a point that I decide and everybody decides when Mark will become available for selection and come back into the squad.”

Howard was the only first-team player to feature in Wednesday’s Central League Cup clash against Morecambe, with the rest of the team being made up of youth-teamers.

Explaining why no fringe first-team members were picked, Grayson said: “We were going to play some fringe first-team players and we were of the mindset that a lot of players that haven’t played will get some minutes.

“But on Tuesday we saw Morecambe had a game in the EFL Trophy which meant they would field a young side in our game on the Wednesday.

“That changed my mindset, that I felt that the players didn’t really need to play against a younger team where they might not have been challenged as much.

“We gave them a good session on Tuesday instead.”