Martin: I dream of saving play-off penalties

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DAVID Martin says he’s ready to be a hero if Dons’ League 1 play-off semi final with Huddersfield proves to be as tight as the league table and their previous meetings this season suggest it will be. And he has previous against the Terriers.

The ever-present goalkeeper has had a near faultless season between the sticks, notching up a fantastic 54 appearances while keeping a record 18 clean sheets.

But he would love to take that tally to 57 for the season by helping Dons reach the play-off final on May 26. To do that he might need to pull off some more heroics against the West Yorkshire side – just like he has in recent times.

Martin said: “I’ve saved two penalties against Huddersfield – one at the end of last year and one earlier this season. So I could do the same again if we get there.

“I’d rather be 3-0 up than have to save a penalty. But it’s one of those things that you think of when you go to bed at night. It’s one of those things that you dream of, saving a penalty that really matters.”

Two 1-1 draws between the teams this term means that a moment of magic – or even a mistake – by one of the two sides could be the decisive factor in the tie.

But Martin – who says he would love to play at Wembley like father Alvin – thinks Dons just need to perform like they have been for the majority of the season, and the rest will take care of itself. However, if it does come down to who holds their nerve best, there are few calmer than him.

“You just have to prepare like a normal game,” said the 26-year-old. “Obviously leading up to the game you know there’s going to be a lot more pressure on it.

“When the ball is down the other end of the pitch you can feel it’s a big game, but when you’re concentrating like you have to you just get on with it really.

“But obviously you know at the end of it that there could be a penalty situation, and you know you have just got to do the best you can.”

After Saturday’s disappointing home defeat to Walsall, there has been a lot of talk about the advantage of playing the second leg in front of your own fans. But Martin isn’t too worried about that. He’s more concerned about the team putting that defeat behind them and proving that they’re a much better team than the one which lost that game 1-0.

“Even if we lost 2-1 or 1-0 then there is still another game up there. Just because they are at home in the second leg does not mean we’re automatically going to lose,” he said. “If other teams can do it why can’t we?

“They weren’t on a good run before the last game but obviously managed to win that and nick the spot above us. But we’ll go there and do well.

“Their fans are a bit more mature than ours – we’ve got a young fanbase – and I think you notice the difference. Hopefully the supporters can give us a great lift on Saturday and then Tuesday. The players are really up for it.

“These are the sort of games that you want to play in with the chance of playing at Wembley. My dad played there, won the FA Cup there, so it would be a great thing for our family.

“During the Walsall game we knew we weren’t playing very well for one reason or another,” he added. “There’s no better feeling than going in with a clean sheet and three points. It was frustrating.

“We got a bit of a bad reception at the end of the game, which I think was a bit disappointing after the season that we have had.

“But it’s one of those things and we’ve got to go out there, put it right and make sure we’re getting cheered at the end of the game.”

Martin, like every other Dons player, is wishing the rest of this week away. There is a genuine sense of excitement around the camp in the build-up to the first leg on Saturday – and a belief that this could be their year.

“The lads can’t stop talking about the weekend,” Martin said. “You just want the game to come as quickly as possible and I’m pleased it’s an early kick-off because that means less time to wait around.”

“The family are going to be there. I’m just trying to sort out tickets now. Some of them might have to pay!”