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Clarke's poker face key to penalty saves for Oxford United
RYAN Clarke admits he loves playing mind games with the opposition during penalty shoot-outs.
The 30-year-old enhanced an already strong reputation by saving two of Plymouth Argyle’s four efforts on Tuesday night.
It proved crucial, as Oxford United won 3-1 on spot-kicks to progress into the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy Southern Section semi-finals.
And Clarke, who also starred in United’s shoot-out win against Bournemouth in August, revealed he loves trying to psych out players.
On Tuesday, the goalkeeper told each of Argyle’s takers he would be standing in the middle of the goal.
He said: “I always fancy myself to save a couple if they have five penalties, I’ve always been all right on them.
“It’s the mind games I enjoy – maybe I should take up poker with the bluffing side of it.
“I like to get in their heads a little bit, nothing extravagant, but just to put a bit of doubt in their mind.
“They still need to be saved and they felt like good penalties to be fair – a lot of power, low on a wet surface, so I was delighted to see them both go round the post.”
The performance was all the more impressive given the fact Clarke was unable to research the players he was up against.
He said: “You can’t do that on a JPT game. I’m sure they’ve got their main penalty taker, but you don’t know which five will be on the list, so you can’t research it really.
“It’s just a matter of guessing right on the night.”
With the club also in the FA Cup, they are fighting on three fronts.
Clarke is pleased to have so many games to focus on – starting tomorrow against Aldershot.
He said: “It kicks us on and keeps the squad happy.
“Maybe we were in a habit of looking two or three games ahead, but we’ve gone from that and the biggest game of the season is now Aldershot on Saturday.
“It’s great to still be involved in three competitions and the key is to make sure you perform well and keep your place.”