24 December 2013

"I knew that I was always going to score" - Matt Lockwood on taking penalties

Matt scores against Carlisle on 19 August 2000.
Once upon a time Orient fans could rest easy in the knowledge that should their team ever be awarded a penalty, nine times out of ten it would result in a goal. 

That’s thanks to Matt Lockwood, the most ruthlessly clinical spot-kicker in the club’s history. The left back scored 36 out of the 40 penalties he took during his nine-year spell at Brisbane Road from 1998-2007.

Here he explains how he did it…

“The first penalty I took for Orient was in the shoot out at the end of the play-off semi-final against Rotherham in 1999. As a kid I used to take them, but I’d never taken one as a pro. But I knew I was going to nominate myself.

We hadn’t practised penalties before the game – Tommy Taylor used to say there’s no point because you can’t recreate the pressure. He’d say, ‘Just go up and pick a spot.’ I was set to take the fourth penalty, but when it got to me Scott Barrett had already saved two. So I knew I had to score mine to win. The pressure was off because even if I’d have missed we had one more where we could have scored to go through.

I knew what I was going to do, I knew what corner I was going in before I’d even run up to take it. I knew I was going to score.

After that, Tommy said to me, ‘I like the way you took that, you were very cool. Do you want to be on them?’ And I said definitely. So I was on them for the play-off final and I’ve been on them ever since.

Cat and mouse

I never practise taking penalties. Tommy just said to me ‘You don’t miss, so don’t practice.’ I just go and take it. Pick your spot and stick it in. But I don’t like taking penalties. Well, maybe that’s not the right wording, but it’s not a nice feeling because the pressure is on the player to score not on the goalkeeper to save it.

Scoring against Lincoln on 16 October 1999
And you’re playing cat and mouse against the keepers because after a while everyone knew who I was, so I always had to mix it up and change it. That season we went up we had some big, high pressure penalties – Peterborough at home, Mansfield away. But I was never going to let anyone else take them because I wouldn’t have trusted them.

Carl Griffiths actually nicked two penalties off me when he came back to the club in 1999. It was the home game against Chester City and we got awarded one in the first half. He sprinted up to the ball, so I said to him, ‘What do you think you’re doing?’ And he said, ‘Oh go on, let me take it, I haven’t scored since I’ve been back.’ And I thought, oh God, you’ve got to handle forwards with care to get their confidence up so I told him he could have that one.

He scored it and got another goal, then we were awarded another penalty in the second half when he was on a hat-trick. So I had to let him have that one too. But after the game I said to him, ‘That’s it, you’re not having any more.’ And he agreed. He said he’d take his hat-trick and run.

Gary Alexander always used to say to me that if I missed one more he was on them. I said, ‘Gal, you’re never going to be on them.’ He’d say, ‘Imagine how many goals I’d score if I took all the penalties as well. I’d be right at the top of the scoring charts every year.’ But I just said ‘You wouldn’t score them.’ And he wouldn’t. He just would not have scored every one.

Missing hurts

I ended up scoring 36 out of 40 penalties for Orient. And I remember all the ones I missed. The first one was in the first game of the 2001/02 season, against Cheltenham away. As I placed the ball I didn’t know which way to go and I knew I was going to miss. I hit a lame effort down the middle, quite slow and the keeper got a foot to it. He hadn’t dived far enough out of the way, and it came straight back to me and I scored the rebound.

The second was away at Carlisle on a Tuesday night in the 2002/03 season. We were 3-0 down in the last minute and the keeper saved it.

Then the next season I missed one against Cambridge at home on the last day. I took a penalty and scored it then the referee made me take it again because their players were in the box. I knew the keeper was going to dive the same way that I’d gone the first time, so I should have dinked it down the middle. But I thought I’m going to put it in exactly the same place and prove that he can’t get it, prove that the first one wasn’t a fluke. And I just miskicked it slightly and gave him a chance to save it. I was more gutted that I bottled dinking it down the middle.

The last one was in the promotion season against Darlington at home. I slipped. Just as I went to take it my standing foot just went and I scuffed it into the ground. I don’t think the keeper even needed to catch it. He just controlled it with his feet.

Taking penalties has been a massive part of my career. I expect to score every time I take one. I knew that I was always gone to score.”

Read the full story of Matt's time at Orient in my book Leyton Orient Greats

Also read:  Matt Lockwood on Orient's promotion season 2005/06 and that game at Oxford... 
Tommy Taylor on his time as manager of Orient 
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