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It's King Ryan as Oxford United keeper saves the day
RYAN Clarke struggled to recall a better performance for Oxford United after playing a key role in keeping the league leaders at bay on Saturday.
The goalkeeper made four superb saves, including a breathtaking double stop in only the third minute, to earn a 0-0 draw against Gillingham.
It was the first clean sheet in nine league games for United, and prompted visiting manager Martin Allen to liken the stopper to Joe Hart and Gordon Banks.
Clarke admitted he could not remember the last time he had played so well.
“I don’t know, you’ll have to go through the archives,” he said.
“It was good to play my part, just like the rest of the boys at the back, as a team we deserved a clean sheet.
“It’s given me a lift because I was disappointed to be dropped.”
The 30-year-old had been left out of the starting line-up for the previous two games.
Clarke came off the bench last Tuesday, replacing the injured Wayne Brown, to make a brilliant save late on which preserved a 3-2 win against AFC Wimbledon.
The stopper did not know whether being dropped had anything to do with his form, but was pleased to have handled the news in the right way.
He said: “Whether it was to give me a kick up the backside or not then so be it, but I told the gaffer ‘fair enough, I’ll work hard behind the scenes and if or when you decide to put me back in I’ll be ready to go’.
“You’ve got to be a good pro about these things.
“Hopefully I’ve set a good example to the rest of the boys, because it’s going to happen to everyone at some point.”
His performance left Allen cursing his side’s luck, the Gills boss saying afterwards: “I thought their goalkeeper was Gordon Banks.
“He was awesome. I was clapping him myself from the sidelines. I had to check the team sheet. . . I thought he was Joe Hart.
“Some of his saves were unbelievable.
“We played some great football in the first half, we just came up against a unbelievable goalkeeper.”
In front of Clarke, another star performer on Saturday was Johnny Mullins.
The 26-year-old only joined on a three-month loan deal from Rotherham United late on Friday night.
An injury to Michael Raynes saw the centre back come straight into the starting line-up and he had an impressive debut.
He said: “I was really pleased to get the clean sheet.
“Gillingham are the best side I’ve played in this division so far, so a point finishes off a really good week for the team. It’s a solid base to build on.”
United boss Chris Wilder added: “I thought the heart in the team was superb.”
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