Ben’s penalty save all down to homework
Paul McGowan reckoned Ben Williams had simply guessed right as the Hibs goalkeeper threw himself full length to push away his penalty kick, the first time the St Mirren star had ever failed from the spot.
But today, Williams insisted there was much more to it than just luck, revealing that although he may be new to Scottish footballl, he’s hard at work studying opposition players.
And McGowan, he disclosed, had been put under the microscope before he headed for Paisley, the big Englishman’s attention to detail paying off as he brought off what proved to be a vital stop as Pat Fenlon’s side held on to claim a 2-1 victory, their first of the new season.
Williams was put on the spot after referee Craig Charleson penalised Hibs skipper James McPake (pictured with Williams) as he tussled for a deflected cross with Buddies’ striker Sam Parkin, the Easter Road side having taken an early lead through Leigh Griffiths, a decision with which none of those in green and white agreed.
The 29-year-old said: “I thought it was a bit harsh. It was not clear cut and looked as if it hit both arms at the same time. I actually thought it was the forward who had handled it but the referee was adamant so you just have to get on with it.
“As a goalkeeper there’s no pressure on you at a penalty as no-one expects you to save them but when you do it’s not just complete guess work. You work on the opposition’s penalty takers, where they go. I’d watched McGowan’s four previous penalties, he’d put two right and two left. It’s 50/50 in that respect but it paid off as I went the right way.”
Williams found himself mobbed by his team-mates in a manner normally reserved for goalscorers as they recognised the significance of his save but the former Manchester United, Crewe Alexandra and Colchester United stopper had to quickly remind them the danger wasn’t over with the ball having been booted behind for a corner.
He said: “I suppose it was my equivalent of scoring a goal but at the same time you are reminding the guys that there’s a corner about to come in and that they need to remain switched on and to focus on defending it. The penalty save would have meant nothing had we conceded from the corner.”
Griffiths added a second on the hour mark only for Steven Thompson to throw Saints a lifeline two minutes later, Hibs then hit by an aerial bombardment as Danny Lennon’s side went for an equaliser which never came as Pat Fenlon’s players swapped craft for graft to ensure they departed with all three points.
Williams said: “I think a penalty save gives everyone a lift, it allowed us to focus on going for a second goal which we did. I spoke to James McPake when we scored the second to tell everyone to stay switched on as you then face a different opposition. Being two goals down they have nothing to lose, they have to commit men forward which St Mirren did.
“They had wide men on each flank stretching the game. We knew what to expect, they have two physical target men and we were under a fair bit of pressure but I think we dealt with it really well from front to back and we can take a lot of positives from that.”
Hibs were forced to endure six extra nail-biting minutes as Charleson added time on following a lengthy stoppage as Saints defender Darren McGregor suffered a serious knee injury, Williams admitting he didn’t see the board being held aloft but twigged as to what was happening by the reaction of the crowd.
He said: “I guessed we were in for a bit of extra time, at one end our fans were booing and at the other their supporters were cheering. But you have to manage the game properly, especially in those final minutes. It’s about getting the ball down into the corners in their half, it might be boring to watch but it’s all about seeing the game out and taking the win.”
Having started the day bottom of the table, the victory drove Hibs up to seventh place, albeit with only three matches played. But, nevertheless, Williams insisted that was a pleasing sight. He said: “We’d actually talked about it the day before, of going to Paisley and being positive.
“Even if there had been only a couple of games played no-one wants to see their team bottom. Now a win has suddenly made our start to the season fairly decent.
“We’ve played three very good footballing sides, got some decent results and now it’s about building on them, taking confidence as a team, pushing on and trying to get a little run together.”
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