DEAN Lyness was full of praise for his battling Burton Albion team-mates following their League Cup second round penalty shoot-out defeat to Premier League Fulham, and says the team can take plenty of positives into their league campaign.
The Brewers were largely unawed by their high-profile visitors, and soaked up 75 minutes of pressure to emerge trailing just 1-0 to Adel Taarabt’s opener.
After that, they pounced and levelled through Jack Dyer five minutes from the end of normal time, before Michael Symes blasted them into an improbable lead in first-half added time.
Hugo Rodallega forced the game to spot-kicks, and though Lyness and co eventually lost 5-4, the new first-choice goalkeeper said: “That’s a performance that everyone can be proud of.
“There are loads of positives to take overall, very few negatives, and I think we were a bit unlucky not to win.”
Lyness has not had the best experience with penalty shoot-outs.
He was unable to stop any of the Cottagers’ five on Tuesday night, while last September, in a Johnstone’s Paint Trophy clash with Coventry City, he had to pick the ball out of the net 10 times from 11 spot-kicks – and even missed one himself against opposite number Joe Murphy.
Asked if he thought he might turn out to be the hero when the game went to penalties, Lyness said: “When you go into it, you’ve got to think like that.
“But I think I’m the only person to score an opposition penalty, when it came off the post and hit me.”
That referred to Bryan Ruiz’s spot-kick, which hit the post, rolled back across goal and bounced in off the unfortunate Lyness.
“I looked at the ref to see if it would count, but he didn’t do anything,” he said.
“A bit more luck and we might have won on penalties.
“I missed one against Coventry last season so I’ve not got a good record.
“I’ve got to work on that.”
Lyness, 22, has forced his way into boss Gary Rowett’s starting XI due to solid displays and a slice of luck.
He arrived at the club in 2012 from Kidderminster Harriers, but has played second fiddle to Ross Atkins, Stuart Tomlinson and – most recently – Jordan Pickford.
But when injury cut Pickford’s loan from Sunderland short, Lyness replaced him between the sticks, and is keen to hold onto the jersey now.
He said: “I was a bit disappointed not to get the nod at the start of the season, as I thought I had a good pre-season.
“The manager had to bring a goalkeeper in, and then it was up to us to fight it out.
“Jordan has picked up an injury and I’ve got an opportunity now to try and establish myself, and that’s my aim.
“I like to think I did well (against Fulham), but a game’s a game, whether it’s reserve team or first team, you’ve just got to make saves as a goalkeeper and keep the ball out of the net.
“I feel good about my game at the minute, and hopefully I can kick on, take it game by game and just keep that jersey.”
Lyness kept five clean sheets last season in 18 appearances, but has yet to record a shut-out this campaign.
Despite that, the Brewers are unbeaten in League Two, but the Birmingham-born custodian says they cannot rest on their laurels.
They travel to Accrington Stanley tomorrow, kick-off 3pm, to face a side who have only one point in the league so far this season.
Lyness said: “We can’t just accept that (the Fulham result) as a good performance and think we’re always going to play at that level.
“We know we’re going to have bad days at the office, and all we can do is try and keep that momentum going.
“We’ve not lost the game in 120 minutes and if we work hard in training we can keep the unbeaten run going and reap the rewards at the end of the season.”
There was little to entertain the 4,000-plus crowd at the Pirelli in the first hour or so on Tuesday night as an attritional display from the Brewers kept the Cottagers at bay.
But Lyness said the team knew if they could keep the scoreline down, they would get chances, which they certainly did in the final half an hour of normal time, and throughout added time.
“The boys were really disciplined, especially in the first half and at the start of the second half, and when they (Fulham) got into dangerous areas, we pressed the ball really well,” said Lyness.
“Over the 90 minutes, I don’t remember having a great deal of saves to make.
“It was just in extra-time, when the game became a bit stretched.
“We always knew that if we could stay in the game, we’d get opportunities to score late on.
“We had to press at some point, and with a bit of luck we could have got a result without it going to penalties.
“I wouldn’t say there was an actual plan to sit in and defend, but we knew we were going to be chasing the ball for much of the game, because they’re a quality side.
“When you come against a team like that, it’s all about keeping your shape and waiting for the moment to go and press the ball, because if you get out of position, teams like Fulham or any other Premier League team will just slot it in and you’re a goal down.”
Fulham made just four changes to their team from the side which lost to Arsenal at the weekend, and Lyness was pleased to see their visitors taking the League Cup seriously.
“You see a lot more teams taking cup competitions seriously now,” he said.
“Mid-table Premier League sides see it as a chance to get into Europe.
“We were delighted to play against the top players, because you don’t want to come into a cup competition and play against a quality second-string.”
One of the changes Fulham boss Martin Jol made was not to include mercurial hitman Dimitar Berbatov, and Lyness said: “You want to play the best but I won’t say it wasn’t a relief – but they just put Darren Bent in instead!”