CON­NOR IS SPOT ON FOR LAT­ICS

The Football League Paper - - INSIDE - By Paul Ed­di­son

CON­NOR Ri­p­ley spent his academy ca­reer sav­ing al­most ev­ery penalty hit at him but he’d never been able to do the same in the pro­fes­sional game – un­til last week­end.

The Old­ham keeper rescued the Lat­ics a point at home to Mill­wall by sav­ing not one but two in­jury-time penal­ties from Lions striker Lee Gre­gory.

They fol­lowed that up with vic­tory at Northampton dur­ing the week, and the 24-year-old hopes it can be a key mo­ment in their sea­son.

“I don’t think I’ll ever be do­ing that again any­time soon,” said Ri­p­ley, who is on a sea­son-long loan from Mid­dles­brough.

“I couldn’t be­lieve it with the first penalty. Then, when the sec­ond penalty came along, it was a case of even more dis­be­lief than any­thing

“It’s go­ing to help us a lot be­cause, if we had lost, that would have re­ally hurt the mo­men­tum we have been build­ing and we might have to get go­ing again.

“The funny thing is that through the academy I used to save most of my penal­ties. Then, as soon as I started play­ing com­pet­i­tive foot­ball, I couldn’t save any­thing! So, to save two on the bounce is pretty spe­cial.

“I’d ac­tu­ally done it once be­fore when I was in the academy. I saved two from Pa­trick Bamford when he was at Not­ting­ham For­est, but this is an­other level.

Spe­cial

“My goal­keep­ing coach at Boro, Leo Per­covich, was at the Mill­wall game so it couldn’t have come at a bet­ter time.”

It’s been a dif­fi­cult sea­son for Old­ham, who started the cam­paign with vir­tu­ally a whole new squad. When Ri­p­ley ar­rived, he was one of just five play­ers at the club.

Since then, things have come to­gether, al­beit af­ter a start in which they were rock-bot­tom of League One in Jan­uary.

That’s when John Sheri­dan re­turned for his third spell at the club and Ri­p­ley be­lieves ev­ery­thing is start­ing to click, par­tic­u­larly de­fen­sively. Be­fore the week­end, the Lat­ics were one place and three points above the drop zone in 20th place.

“Since the gaffer came in, it has re­freshed the squad,” he said. “We’ve started to pick up points and, hope­fully, we can keep mov­ing away from the bot­tom.

“There’s also the clean sheet record at the club, which is 18 or 19, and the guys know I want to beat it. I’m on 14 at the mo­ment.”

Ri­p­ley has had to try to step out of the shadow of dad Stu­art, a Pre­mier League win­ner with Black­burn, while also look­ing to es­tab­lish him­self as first-choice at Mid­strug­gled

dles­brough. He has been on loan spells to Swe­den and Mother­well and the long-term aim re­mains to be­come the num­ber one on Teesside. “When I went to Swe­den (to play for Oster­sund) it was my first loan re­ally,” he said. “I went out there for the first half of the sea­son and it was bril­liant. I’d rec­om­mend it to any­one.”

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Im­ages

UN­BEAT­ABLE: Con­nor Ri­p­ley has been in top form for Old­ham In­sets: Sav­ing Lee Gre­gory’s first penalty and his dad, Stu­art

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