Sheridan's big salute
Reporter: Matthew Chambers
Date published: 02 May 2017
Connor Ripley saying to the fans that Peter Clarke is part of the reason for the clean sheet record
JOHN Sheridan lauded the efforts of Connor Ripley and the men in front of him, as a successful end to Athletic's campaign drew to a close with a goalless draw at Wimbledon.
Ripley equalled Les Pogliacomi's all-time club record of 18 clean sheets in a league season by maintaining a shut-out at Kingsmeadow, with skipper Peter Clarke in front of him clearing off the line in the first half.
On-loan Middlesbrough goalkeeper Ripley claimed three prizes at last night's end-of-season awards, with Clarke also taking three.
"Connor Ripley keeping a clean sheet was a plus side and he's had a brilliant season," said Sheridan, who ended up guiding Athletic to a 17th place after taking over in January with the club bottom of Sky Bet League One.
"To keep the amount of clean sheets he has is a superb effort and I'm sure he would like to thank the players in front of him as well.
"Defensively, we have done really well and to equal the record, I am chuffed to bits for him."
As for the performance against a Wimbledon side who had 20 efforts at goal without beating Ripley, Sheridan admitted his much-changed line-up could have had more intent.
"It was the last game of the season with not a lot riding on it, but I would like us to have a bit more purpose about our game," he said.
"I made a lot of changes and the lads who haven't had a lot of football probably looked a bit rusty.
"In the second half, we improved a lot and had one or two really good chances.
"I wanted to win the game, but I am pleased we didn't get beaten. We achieved what we had to do this season and it is a magnificent achievement from all the players involved who have helped us.
"We wanted to avoid relegation and now we look to build on this for next season, improve and hopefully be a team playing to get out of the league at the other end."
Athletic's 793 fans at the Wimbledon game enjoyed themselves, with the pressure of any chance of relegation absent after the previous week's 1-1 draw with Rochdale. Port Vale were relegated on Sunday after only drawing 0-0 at Fleetwood.
Sheridan's task in the coming days is to finalise which out-of-contract players will be offered new deals for 2017-18.
"The fans have been fantastic, now only away from home but at home too," said Sheridan. "I think they have got a bit of belief that we are not going to be fighting relegation next year, so I have got to go about doing that.
"I will make those decisions probably today or Wednesday. They are tough, some of them, but I make them to improve them and to make us better.
"I know where we need to strengthen and I will be working hard over the season to do that."
Clarke claimed the two major awards last night, winning the players' player of the season award and that voted for by Athletic's supporters.
Ripley was voted young player of the season and was also the Boundary Blues' player of the season and Trust Oldham's top player.
Athletic supporter Lisa Pendlebury picked up the fan of the season award after her heroics helped save the life of fellow supporter Tony Hall in November.
The winners in full -
Community Trust Player of the Season: George Edmundson; Boundary Blues Player of the Season: Connor Ripley; Trust Oldham Player of the Season; Connor Ripley; Goal of the Season: Lee Erwin v Fleetwood; Fan of the Season: Lisa Pendlebury; Chairman's Outstanding Moment of the Season: Peter Clarke's goal v Chesterfield; Alex Williams Believe and Achieve Young Player of the Season: Connor Ripley; Players' Player of the Season: Peter Clarke; Player of the Season: Peter Clarke.