Lots of people erroneously suggested we’d signed Josh Vickers on loan in the summer. Just to clarify, we haven’t. Vickers is our player, he signed a two-year deal and when he returns to fitness, I imagine he’ll be our number one.
When he signed I had visions of him being another Paul Pettinger or Simon Rayner, the guy who appears on the team sheet but never, ever gets a game. We knew Danny would give him a run out in the odd competition, but that early League Cup match at Rotherham got me thinking. Here was a player who could push Farms for the number one spot, he was all killer and no filler.
The game in which Josh Vickers came of age, in my eyes, was one we lost. Coventry turned us over 2-1 at the Bank, they were a superb side that day and had Jodi Jones remained fit or Duckens Nazon not been recalled, I think they would have been top three. However, Vickers kept the goal tally down to two with an outstanding display, commanding in the box but as quick to react to shots as any I’d seen for years.
He reminded me a little of Ian Bowling, another keeper I always held in high regard. Maybe it was my memory as a child but Bowling was an outstanding shot stopper and a keeper who commanded his area with absolute certainty. I liked Bowling a lot, I liked Vickers a lot too.
The one thing that went against him was his distribution, his kicking wasn’t as good as Farman. When we look to go from back to front quickly we need a keeper with a huge kick, but Vickers didn’t bring that. With hindsight, it could have been the early onset of the injury that effected him, but at the time it was an attribute he didn’t bring to the table.
The 4-2 defeat at Luton saw his final action of the season, a short spell in goal curtailed by injury. Paul Farman’s spell as number one ended in a four-goal blitz at Notts County, Josh Vickers lost his place after a similar mauling at Luton. He wasn’t to blame that day though, it was a crazy game coming at the end of a packed period of games. Those matches took their toll and the big stopper wasn’t seen again. He will be though, make no mistake about that.
I feel Josh Vickers is the best of the three we’ve seen this season. I think he’s more confident than Ryan Allsop in the air, his shot stopping is comparable and maybe his distribution will improve with his recovery from injury. There’s little doubt he is our number one though, a spot he earned by waiting for his chance and taking it when it came his way.
With Richard Walton still in the squad, Danny has a big call to make. Michael Antkowiak has been impressing in the youth set up, but Danny won’t keep both. Will he let Walton remain at the club, or does he release him and step up the younger keeper?
My gut feeling is that Walton, a player we sponsored in 2016/17, will be on the move. Had he been a success at Gainsborough Trinity, he might have had a chance of a new deal, but that spell ended quickly. I heard he did well at Cleethorpes, but cost them a points deduction after a clerical error when he returned. It hasn’t been a good campaign for the youngster and I think it will be ‘game over’ come the retained list.
I’d be very surprised if Antkowiak isn’t given a one-year deal and then sent out on loan to the National League North or lower. I’ve heard lots of good things about him and it seems he needs men’s football to take the next step. One day, we’ll produce a keeper from our academy like Scott Loach, but one who goes on to play 200 games for us, not other sides. Will that be Antkowiak? Only time will tell.
Thanks to Graham Burrell for the photos