Okay, he’s divided opinions all season, the debate raging about whether he or Chris Maxwell should be first choice keeper. I’ve had plenty to say on the subject, advocating Maxwell’s case (here, here and here) before accepting Mayebi’s qualities as his run in the team wore on and he established himself in the team. I make no secret of my admiration for Maxwell, but Mayebi is first choice keeper for a reason. He has grabbed hold of his opportuntiy and, although I accept he’s unorthodox and has his wild moments, you can’t argue with the number of clean sheets he’s kept.
Alan Marriott’s goal does not change that. Frankly, accidents can happen. In evaluating a goalkeeper, you’ve got to ignore the freak occurences. Anyone can let one of those in: I should know, as I conceded a similar goal at The Racecourse in the biggest game I ever played in! The whole point of a fluke is that it’s a highly unusual occurence; the combination of circumstances aren’t likely to happen again. So if a keeper is regularly making routine errors, you take a long hard look at him; if a keeper concedes a crazy goal like Mayebi did, you put it behind you and carry on.
And anyway, was that goal really the most worrying thing about that match? We were completely overrun, creatively moribund and it was only the gutsy resistance of Mayebi, Nat Knight-Percival and Mark Creighton that kept the score down. I find it hard to believe that we only lost that match 2-0, to a fluke and a set piece. Those were the issues which exercised my mind after the game, not a moment destined for this year’s comedy compilation DVDs.
Apart from that goal, Mayebi actually did well, and I was genuinely encouraged by how he responded to it. I’ve felt worried that Mayebi tends to respond to an error with too much bravado, trying too hard to puff out his chest and project a confident image, and in doing so becoming much more vulnerable to making another mistake; the FA Cup tie at Cambridge was a clear case in point. Yesterday that didn’t happen; he kept his cool after the goal and put in a tidy performance, handling the slippery ball well and making a superb sliding challenge to deny Louis Briscoe when he was through on goal.
Dropping Mayebi now would be lunacy. He’s the man in possession, and asking Maxwell to come back in cold would be dangerous – he looked uncharacteristically rusty when asked to do exactly that in the FA Trophy against Hinckley. Morrell might have an important piece of man management coming up this week though, as he might well have planned to give Maxwell a game at Newport in order to keep his hand in, just in case he has to turn to him in an emergency in the play-offs. If so, would he still do that now, running the risk of making Mayebi feel he had been punished for Marriott’s goal?
The grief Mayebi’s received on the internet and via Premier Sport’s use of a twitter feed on their broadcasts is absurd.He wears his heart on his sleeve and has shown real committment to the cause this season; how will rabid criticism help him to prepare for the play-offs, exactly? He’s earned our respect and it’s time to support him, not castigate him for the misjudgement of a situation which is unlikely to ever come up again in his career.
A bit of perspective is required. As I said at the end of the Mansfield podcast, when the opposing keeper has more shots on target than our three strikers combined, the problem ain’t Mayebi.