If Keane Lewis-Potter first began knocking on the door for a full Hull City debut during an impressive pre-season, it grows increasingly hard to ignore the noise being made by the youngster.
Six Championship appearances have come off the bench under Grant McCann and twice now Lewis-Potter has made a telling impact.
Away to Barnsley he was on hand to nod in a first senior goal that briefly threatened a comeback and last time out he became City’s saviour in a 2-2 draw at Charlton Athletic last week.
Lewis-Potter might not have been credited with that 96th-minute equaliser at The Valley, with goalkeeper Dillon Phillips adjudged to have had a telling final touch, but the substitute’s towering back-post header was the trigger for City to avoid a third straight away defeat.
The inevitable question that followed those heroics is when Lewis-Potter can expect greater opportunities. The 18-year-old is edging closer to a first senior start but Grant McCann is determined not to hurry Lewis-Potter’s development.
“We’ve got to be very careful. He’s 18 years of age. We’ve got to use him wisely,” said McCann.
“Could he start a game? 100 per cent yes, he could.
“But it’s about using him so we get the best out of Keane at this present time and not throwing him into the lion’s den willy nilly. We have to make sure we get that bit right.
“My experience of younger players over the years is that you can put them in there early. I’ll use Leo (Da Silva Lopes) as an example. At Peterborough the fans booed him there every single week when he was 18. Look at him now.
“But he had to get through that period where the fans are getting on top of him and that takes strong characters.”
The visit of Birmingham City is again expected to see Lewis-Potter named among the substitutes but any injuries over the festive programme could swing the door open.
The Tigers face five games inside 15 days and the last of those, the FA Cup third round tie at Rotherham United on January 4, could be deemed the fixture that brings Lewis-Potter his full debut.
“I’ve got a lot of belief in Keane,” said McCann. “Don’t think I’m saying anything different. I think he’s going to be a top, top player.
He’s learning every single day off top pros in those positions, like (Kamil) Grosicki, (Jarrod) Bowen, (Tom) Eaves, (Josh) Magennis and (Josh) Bowler.
“He’s learning every day and will only get better, but we’ve just got to be careful with him.
“We don’t want to be doing anything that’s detrimental to the lad’s career, but what we will do is focus on getting the best out of him in the way we see fit.
“He can play in all three positions of the front line and also as a 10. He’s very versatile and that’s what I like about him.
“He’s probably more suited to playing with a forward than as a one. On the left or on the right, on the left he’s been very effective for the under-23s the way he cuts inside. But he’s got enough in his locker to play in numerous positions.”
That was underlined last week in South London. Lewis-Potter was introduced as a sub shortly after the hour mark but waited until deep inside stoppage time to lurk with intent at the back post and plant a terrific header low into the bottom corner.
A save from Phillips on to the post and then into the net via another touch led to the Charlton keeper earning an unfortunate own goal but McCann has confirmed City have appealed the decision.
He added: “Initially he’s not been given the goal but looking at it back it’s on target and then it’s hit the post and gone back in off the goalkeeper. It’s very, very harsh if he doesn’t get it.
“The club has appealed it. Their goalkeeper certainly doesn’t want it, I know that. Surely they’d rather give it to a young 18-year-old making his way in the game.”
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