Dons made to pay the penalty
The player who believes he will score a penalty is the one who should take it, according to MK Dons boss Karl Robinson.
On Saturday, Carl Baker became the latest of a, frankly, embarrassingly-long list of players to have fluffed their lines from 12 yards in Dons colours when he fired wide in stoppage time against Brighton.
The science of spot kicks is a fascinating debate and is one any English football fan is all too familiar with. Plenty of occasions have seen unlikely players - Gareth Southgate and David Batty for example - stepping up when more likely candidates have shied away from the limelight, and taken the subsequent flack.
It’s a topic that fascinates the Dons boss too. Although they have an allocated taker in Ben Reeves, and he has done the business three times this season, he too has missed.
His most recent conversion came against QPR earlier this month, ironically after Josh Murphy had won and miss an earlier penalty.
The psychology and confidence behind taking penalties is a huge factor, according to Robinson, and though Nicky Maynard was the allotted taker for Saturday’s game, he didn’t argue with Baker taking responsibility.
“Nicky Maynard was the penalty taker on Saturday, Carl Baker and Alex Revell took it off him and said they were in a better mindset to take it,” Robinson explained. “And Carl Baker took it, but he missed it.
“If Nicky Maynard missed, everyone would be asking why someone who was desperate to take it wasn’t taking it.”
Baker’s mindset was certainly done no favours by Brighton’s delaying tactics, prolonging the referee’s whistle by nearly three minutes. And it worked, adding to the importance of psychology, in Robinson’s mind.
He said: “I’m a strong believer in the psychological element of football. In big cup finals, you see people stepping up and people shying away. There are always reasons, but you’ve got to go with the ones who have the right mindset to take it.
“Brighton’s antics worked. Carl told me he was going down the middle, but changed his mind.
“Josh has won more penalties for us than anyone this season, and he never missed in U21s football. He believed he was in the best frame of mind to take it (against QPR).
“We do have an allocated penalty taker, but Ben Reeves has missed penalties too.
“We take penalties at the end of training every day, but you cannot replicate the 91st minute, 2-1 down in front of a record attendance.
“And goalkeepers do more research than ever. More penalties are saved now than ever before.”
But while Robinson allocates a taker, the decision appears to be made on the field more and more often. And the manager is happy to distance himself from barking orders from the sidelines when a kangaroo court among his players could have a better outcome.
“I never will, because if he wants to take it and he believes he can score, he accepts responsibility,” Robinson said.
“Carl understands that and accepts the responsibility after the game, and he came out and apologised. That’s the nature of the beast.”