Rooney Meets His Youthful Nemesis

I was left conflicted after Saturday’s game with North Ferriby. It was good that we dominated the game, but bad that we failed to score more than once against a side which looked weaker than any other we’ve faced this season. The cause of my internal conflict was a goalkeeper who looked like he’s seven years old but played with the swagger of a Schmeichel.

Rory Walker, on loan from Hull City, is the child prodigy in question, and his heroics were jaw-dropping. The best save he made came in the closing minutes, an outrageous palm onto the post which denied Ntumba Massanka a debut goal. However, most of his day was spent denying John Rooney, who on another day might have walked away with the match ball.

Rooney was denied shortly before we scored when he showed good technique to steer a half volley towards the bottom right corner, only for the unsighted Walker to pounce and push the ball round the post at full stretch. He continued to deny the poor bloke until the death, when he stood up well to parry a powerful Rooney strike as his back four dissolved in front of him. In all I counted six notable saves Walker made from Rooney, while at the other end Chriis Dunn wondered if his morals would force him to return his wage for the day as he felt guilty about getting paid for watching a game of football unfold somewhere in the distance.

But back to that save from Massanka, because it really summed up how inspired Walker was. Once again, Walker was unsighted as the striker struck a powerful shot from a mere eight yards out, but it seems that seeing the ball late was no obstacle to the youngster on Saturday. His save was out of the top drawer, but for me it was what happened directly afterwards which encapsulated his near-invincibility.

The ball ricocheted at speed off the post and swiftly fell to a Wrexham player on the far side of the box who was in a position to take a snap shot. Inevitably, that player was Rooney.

Rooney opted to rip his shot towards the far post, surely reasoning that if he was ever going to beat this wretched keeper his best chance was to send it back in the direction he was moving from. Surely, with his balance shifted the other way, he’d not be able to get back across to cover the shot? Rooney got his bearings slightly wrong and the ball scraped the outside of the post on its way wide, but the thing is this: Walker managed to cover it anyway! Sometimes as a goalkeeper you just get into the zone and want as many shots as possible to come raining in on you; clearly Walker was slap-bang in the middle of that zone at that moment. He’d just made a world class save, and immediately he was up on his toes again, bouncing across his goal full of adrenaline and then hurling himself back the other way, praying that Rooney’s shot was onside so he could deny him once more. I was actually glad Rooney didn’t score from that rebound: Walker didn’t deserve to be punished from the rebound of such a good save.

I might have seen it differently if the score was still 0-0 though. It was a good job Izale McLeod came up with a contender for goal of the season: only a shot nailed into the top left corner would have beaten Walker on his special day.

Still, ultimately the story of the match was that Walker had a magnificent game and therefore a huge impact on the ultimate scoreline. If he’s this good when he’s seven, wait until he’s eight!

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