Lewis Carey has such a calm head during penalty shootouts that Lewes boss Tony Russell was certain the boys would bypass Chesham in the FA Trophy on Saturday – and he was proved right.
Carey saved two spot-kicks as Lewes beat Chesham 3-1 in the shoot-out to progress to the second round.
Penalties came after a frantic game which the Rooks came within seconds of winning, before the home side popped up with a 96th-minute leveller to make it 2-2.
“I know Lewis and know how good he is at saving penalties,” says Russell when reflecting on Saturday’s win.
“He has the ability to read people. Very few players send Lew the wrong way when it comes to a penalty. He reads them and knows where to go.
“I told the lads that he will save at least one, so if we score ours then it’s an easy win. And Lew went out and saved two! It’s just what he does.”
‘He’s been brilliant’
Carey was part of the Rooks side that fell short in the Isthmian Premier League promotion push last season. And Russell admits a heart-to-heart with the goalkeeper one the summer has resulted in an upturn in performances.
“I think Lewis has been brilliant this season. I don’t think he had his best year last season, however I also don’t think I managed him to the best of my ability either,” says Russell.
“Whenever he had an average game I went too hard on him, and I ended up not getting the best out of him by doing that. But in pre-season we sat down and spoke about hit, he said he hadn’t had the best of seasons and felt the situation between the two of us could have been managed better.
“It was good to talk it through and we made an agreement. Since then he’s been brilliant. Of course there’s always things he can work on but he’s such a calming influence in the team and is not one to get flustered. It means in those shoot-out situations he can be a chilled-out presence.”
‘You need players like Lewis’
Jamie Mascoll, Mitchell Nelson and Alfie Young scored for the Rooks. And Russell was delighted with how the players kept calm despite the late drama.
“The lads are learning. With penalties I always go back to my playing days,” says Russell. “I remember going into a playoff penalty shootout and the manager walking over and just ordering players to take the first, second, third, fourth and fifth penalty. Then he walked off into the dugout.
“I remember speaking to the lad who’d been told he was taking the third, and he said ‘I’ve never scored a penalty in my life, I don’t want to take it’. He duly took it and he missed.
“That’s always stuck with me, so I never make someone take a penalty if they don’t want to.
“I’ve got a 100% record in penalty shootouts, even though it’s basically a toss-up. I get the boys to line up and take a step forward if they’re willing to take one.
“On Saturday eight stepped forward, and from there I picked the five. I told them we can’t control the uncontrollable, and if we don’t win from here then it’s fine. There’s no shame in losing a shoot-out.
“You need players like Lewis because sometimes when people get too excited they do stupid things. But just look at our penalties. We were very relaxed and that’s thanks to Lew.
“I could hear Chesham’s huddle was different because they’d just equalised in the last minute, so they were pumped up. I think that works in a game but not for penalties, you have to be relaxed.
“So we relieved the pressure from the lads and said ‘it is what it is, if you miss then so what?’ and assured them Lewis would save at least one. And you know what? He even got close to the one Chesham scored!”