Preston North End keeper Connor Ripley eager for chance but team’s interest must come first

Connor Ripley embraces his counterpart, Hull City's Matt Ingram, after the shootout in midweek
Connor Ripley embraces his counterpart, Hull City's Matt Ingram, after the shootout in midweek

When Alex Neil reads out his Preston team for this weekend’s trip to Nottingham Forest, Connor Ripley knows he has an important job to do no matter what.

The 26-year-old goalkeeper will be hoping his performance in the penalty shootout victory over Hull City at Deepdale in the League Cup might be enough to earn him his first league start of the season.

The former Middlesbrough and Accrington Stanley ace made several fine stops during the match, only beaten by a penalty and a last-ditch equaliser during the game which ended 2-2 at full-time.

He then went on to become the hero in the subsequent penalty shootout, saving Tom Eaves’ penalty as North End progressed to the third round where they will meet Premier League champions Manchester City at home.

However, the strong likelihood is that Neil will recall Declan Rudd for the trip to the City Ground.

The former Norwich City shotstopper has begun the season as the man in possession of the No.1 jersey – playing in all of North End’s five Championship games so far.

Rudd has certainly not let anybody down – and in the last two games has conceded just two goals as PNE picked up two successive home wins over Stoke City and Sheffield Wednesday.

Of course, 26-year-old Ripley is eager to claim the No.1 jersey for himself, 
but he fully understands that the team’s interests come above any personal ambition.

It is the reason why he will be fully behind and supportive of Rudd if, as expected, he returns to the starting XI tomorrow.

“We have got four keepers at the club – four good keepers,” said Ripley, who also has Michael Crowe and Matt Hudson for company in the goalkeeping department.

“Dec’s a very good goalkeeper, Crowey’s a good goalie and so is Matt.

“We are all fighting for the same position, Dec’s got that position currently and it’s my job as a No.2 at the moment to push him all the way, and show the gaffer in these kind of games against Hull that I can actually do a good job if something goes wrong or there’s a dip in form.

“I can show him that I am ready to play.

“I have been involved in football since the age of 15 professionally, so that’s 11 years of knowing that you can’t sulk when you’re not in the team.

“Basically that’s exactly what you have got to do, not sulk, take it on the chin and help the team.

“It’s not about me, it’s about the team and we want the team to do well.

“Dec’s doing well at the moment and I am going to be right behind Dec all the way.

“Hopefully, one day I will get a chance and hopefully I’ll be able to take it.”

Neil has recently expanded his coaching set-up by installing former North Ender Jonathan Gould as the designated goalkeeping coach.

Ex-Celtic No.1 Gould – the son of former Wimbledon and Wales manager Bobby – is well known to the Deepdale faithful, he made 59 appearances for the club in a two-year stint between 2003 and 2005.

The 51-year-old is also well known to Ripley and he is looking forward to benefitting from Gould’s experience in the coming weeks and months.

“I have known Gouldy a number of years,” said Ripley.

“I worked with him at Middlesbrough.

“He kind of helped me get out of Middlesbrough because he knew I should be playing and competing for a first-team position.

“When I found out he was coming, I thought that’s fantastic – we have got a great goalkeeping coach and he’s going to help not just myself, but the other three.

“We are all going to be able to push each other on.

“Gouldy’s got tons of knowledge and experience.

“He was a good a goalkeeper himself, played at the highest level.

“So he’s got lots of little bits of wisdom which he can impart to us.

“I think we are all happy to learn, you never stop learning no matter what age you are. I think for Crowey and Matt, it’s great to have a goalkeeping coach who has been there and done it.”

Ripley enjoyed being the hero of the hour on Tuesday night .

“You have nothing to lose, in a shootout,” said Ripley.

“People don’t expect you to save them all or even save one.

“But I managed to save one and the rest of the lads did their part and scored all the penalties.

“For the penalty in the first half, I was actually going to go to my left, but Gouldy told me to go right and he ended up putting it to my left.

“In the penalty shootout, I knew Magennis was going to put it to my left, but it was such a good penalty.

“For the second which I saved, I had an inkling Eaves was going to put it to my right but all the rest sent me the wrong way.”