REUSCH GOALKEEPER OF THE YEAR – JAMES McKEOWN (GRIMSBY TOWN)
HE MAY be beating himself up for not saving a Bristol Rovers penalty in the Vanarama Conference Promotion final at Wembley last Sunday.
He might modestly credit the Grimsby team he plays behind for ensuring he kept the highest number of clean sheets by any individual in the division during 2014-15.
But James McKeown can at last lay claim to being the number one in Non-League after NLP readers voted him the Reusch Goalkeeper of the Year for another outstanding season in the Mariners’ goal.
The 25-year-old Brummie made his second trip to the capital in a week when he collected the award at Craven Cottage, and he said: “Not winning promotion is going to take some getting over.
“I felt I could have saved the Matty Taylor penalty, which might have changed the course of the shoot-out, but it wasn’t to be.
“I always look at myself in those situations. It’s like when we lost on penalties to Wrexham in the FA Trophy final a couple of years ago. Everyone says the odds are stacked against the goalie, but I have confidence in myself and the homework I’ve done to enable me to keep them out.
“It’s not happened for me, but I’ve just got to hope that next year – if we can’t go up as champions – I’ll make it third time lucky at Wembley.”
When it comes to assessing the campaign that has earned him the NGA accolade, McKeown – who kept 23 clean sheets himself, whereas Bristol Rovers’ 24 were shared between Steve Mildenhall and Will Puddy – insists he has been fortunate.
“I’m lucky that I play behind a team whose work ethic is second to none,” he said.
“Shaun Pearson has travelled down here with me today and I’ve been fortunate to play with him for the best part of five years at Boston and now Grimsby, so we have a great understanding.
“The boys in the back four, and right up to the front of the pitch with the strikers, all work so hard to cut off the opposition’s attacks. It’s how the manager sets the team up and I’ve got to be honest, I don’t feel like I’ve had that much to do this season.”
What he has had to do, however, has been done with his usual efficiency and excellence. Despite the Wembley dejection, 2014-15 has been a stellar season for the number one stopper outside the Football League. The ex-Peterborough man’s main aim now is to get back there.
“We go again,” he says with a smile that, after three play-off defeats in as many years, must be hard to muster – although the Goalkeeper of the Year award will undoubtedly help.