BENTLEY MOTORS ON TO RECORDS
Southend stopper keeping it clean
IT IS not often a 21-year-old can lay claim to writing his own chapter in a club’s 109-year history – but Southend’s Daniel Bentley is not your average Football League goalkeeper.
The youngster’s clean sheet in last weekend’s goalless draw with Cambridge United was the eighth straight shutout Bentley has achieved at Roots Hall in League Two – the best sequence by a Blues stopper in 34 years and the second-best ever.
Indeed, you have to go back to October 25 for the last time he was beaten, Craig Jones of Bury doing the honours.
Basildon-born Bentley’s form for the Essex club has attracted attention nationwide. Nottingham Forest and Leeds are thought to be among his admirers, while England are also keeping tabs on the 6ft 4in star ahead of the summer’s European U21 Championships in the Czech Republic.
Bentley’s immediate target, though, is to better Southend’s best-ever sequence of ten home clean sheets kept by club legend Mervyn Cawston in the 1980-81 season.
However, he is reluctant to take the praise and admits he had forgotten all about the record until he was informed on Twitter.
“After I hit seven, it was mentioned to me about the recent record being eight, and the club record being ten,” he said.
“But then I had an injury and missed the games against Accrington and Wycombe, and I totally forgot about the record. It was only when a fan sent me a message on social media that I remembered.
“I’m very honoured to achieve that. It’s great to now be mentioned along with some of the great goalkeepers that have played for this club. It is not the sort of thing you aim for at the start of the season, but if it happens then that’s fantastic.
“But setting the record is a real team effort, I won’t take any individual praise for that. A keeper is always the one who gets the accolades for a clean sheet, but I couldn’t do it without the lads in front of me.”
Bentley has been one of three stoppers selected by boss Phil Brown this season and believes they complement each other perfectly.
In his recent absence, 19-year-old Ted Smith has donned the gloves, while 35-year-old Paul Smith is always close by to keep the junior duo in check – though Bentley admits it is often difficult to tell who is the senior stopper among them.
“Me and Ted joke that Paul is the least mature of the three of us,” he added. “He wouldn’t thank me for saying that, but he is always larking around, trying to pull pranks. “But it is all in good humour. The three of us have a very good relationship, it works well between us.
“Ted, I’m sure, is going to have a fantastic career when he gets his chance of playing game in, game out, whether that is at Southend or somewhere else down the line.
“Paul is at the other end of the spectrum, he’s been there and done it, played in the Premier League, so we have got a great balance.”
Ahead of this weekend’s fixtures, Southend were fifth in the League Two table, involved in a real scrap for a topseven finish to make the play-offs.
But with Blues boss Brown having promotion to the Premier League with Hull already on his CV, Bentley believes that will give his team the edge come May. “It’s great for the boys to have a manager with the pedigree of winning promotion,” added Bentley.
“Having a manager who has been involved in this situation before can only help, particularly for people like myself and the younger boys in the squad.
“It could go to the last day, even for the automatic places – that’s something we have not given up on.
“A couple of good results from us and from elsewhere, too, and we’re right back in it.We know what we have to do and it would be fantastic for us to go up.”
THREE OF A KIND: Daniel Bentley is kept on his toes by Ted Smith, inset top, and Paul Smith, inset bottom