BENT­LEY MO­TORS ON TO RECORDS

Southend stop­per keep­ing it clean

The Football League Paper - - INSIDE - By Joshua Richards

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.

Hon­oured

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.”

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Images

THREE OF A KIND: Daniel Bent­ley is kept on his toes by Ted Smith, inset top, and Paul Smith, inset bot­tom

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