Heroic ’keeper earns his glass of champagne
Reporter: MATTHEW CHAMBERS
Date online: 24 February 2014
Athletic’s number one Mark Oxley was the outstanding performer as Athletic saw off Gillingham on Saturday.
Gary Harkins was the scoring hero in the 1-0 win over Gillingham — and picked up a bottle of bubbly as the sponsors’ man of the match.
But it was goalkeeper Oxley who stood out, producing his finest display of the season to preserve a clean sheet at Boundary Park.
The on-loan Hull player (23) believes he is growing into his role as he racks up the games in his first full season as first choice.
“I feel I am growing more and coming for more crosses,” said the player, who had only seven matches of Football League experience before becoming an ever-present in the Athletic ranks.
“The thing for me is getting that game time. It’s a massive thing for a goalkeeper. Hopefully I can keep improving week by week.”
Athletic boss Johnson agreed with Oxley that he is improving: “He’s got better as the season has gone on and now he is looking like what he could be.”
Connor Brown was substituted during the second half as a precaution after taking a knock to his hip.
Should he not recover in time for tomorrow’s return clash with MK Dons, Johnson could be tempted to move into the loan market.
The most obvious replacement, Genseric Kusunga, still has a game of his suspension to serve.
Captain Korey Smith (knee) is rated as unlikely to feature: “He is 60-40 against,” said Johnson. “He is such an important player for us and we don’t want to bring him back too early. The injury has got to heal.”
Athletic’s manager also said that striker Jonson Clarke-Harris, an ever-present in the matchday squad in 2014 up until Saturday, was dropped and not injured.
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