As football fans, nothing catches our attention more than an outfield player having to go in goal! Non-league clubs can rarely afford to have a backup keeper on their books, so it’s something that happens much more frequently lower down the pyramid. The prospect of an outfield player, uncomfortably donning gloves and a slightly too large keeper jersey, is almost always entertaining, one way or another.
The week before, in the Spartan Premier, Oxhey Jets mounted a remarkable comeback with an outfield player in goal. At half time the Hertfordshire side was losing 3-0 at Wembley with 2 players in the sin bin and their goalkeeper injured. Jamie Speer, the smallest player for the Jets, volunteered to put the gloves on. Not only did he make a string of saves, claim crosses and keep a second-half clean sheet, his outfield teammates mounted a remarkable comeback winning 4-3! The winning goal from Darren Brew was last kick of the game– real Roy of the Rovers stuff!
Last Saturday, in the National League, Bromley defender Chris Bush was forced to go in goal after Mark Cousins was injured 2 minutes into their game at Yeovil. Bromley took the lead as Bush performed admirably keeping Yeovil out until the stroke of half time. With a draw then on the cards, his own defender scored passed him in calamitous fashion as the game descended into farce with the referee sending off all the Yeovil ball boys for time-wasting! Non-league football never fails to produce a story!
Sometimes lower-league sides have to survive much more than the one game with an outfield player between the posts. In March 2018 Biggleswade Town made national news when they were left without a goalkeeper for the remainder of the season. Injuries to Liam Gooch and Sam Donkin meant The Waders had to start winger Craig Daniels in net. He did surprisingly well for Chris Nunn's side, helping the club pick up several creditable draws before the Southern League eventually allowed the club to sign an emergency replacement goalkeeper.
Recently on the Non-League Show, I spoke to Steve Nott-Macaire. The former Holmer Green, Tring Athletic and Risborough Rangers defender spent most of his career as the designated outfield player to go in goal when required. I think at times he secretly enjoyed the opportunity to show what he could do with the gloves on. Whilst at Chalfont St Peter he played in goal for 10 games in a row when their only registered keeper was injured. His first moment between the sticks for The Saints saw him save a penalty! He joked how they'd try and not let the opposition know he wasn’t a proper keeper, but he was so well known in lower league football that it rarely worked.
With the FA gradually increasing the number of substitutes on the bench and Non-league squads getting bigger, perhaps the sight of outfield players going in goal will become a less common sight in future seasons, I for one hope not though.