Cornell: Homework Paid Off
Sunday, 25th Apr 2021 11:20
Keeper Dai Cornell says his homework paid off having saved Joe Pigott’s penalty during yesterday’s 0-0 draw with AFC Wimbledon, the Welshman’s first appearance under new manager Paul Cook.
Cornell, who joined the Blues last summer after leaving Northampton, hadn’t played since the 3-2 home defeat to Swindon in January prior to yesterday’s game his seventh League One start for Town and his 12th appearance in all competitions.
“I did my homework in the week,” he said when asked about the 22nd-minute penalty which was awarded for Mark McGuinness's pull on Pigott.
“I tried to get in his head a little bit which worked in the end because I don’t think he’s missed many.
“I’d done my homework on where he’s been [hitting his penalties] and when I looked at where he’s been, he’s been everywhere in that goal, so it was hard to decide whether to try to stay up and go as late possible because he does like going down the middle.
“And obviously my trailing leg managed to get enough on it and then Wardy [Stephen Ward] did brilliantly on the rebound to react to stop him from just putting it in. So it was good, but the three points was what we wanted in the end but we didn’t get it.”
Regarding that research, he added: “The lads are great behind the scenes with all that stuff. I’d obviously seen his penalties from the last time we played them just in case, I’d watched a selection of his last 10 or 12 penalties. You study the run-up, the body shape and things like that.”
The former Wales U21 international approached Pigott prior to him taking the penalty and said he had a few words with the striker.
“I gave him a bit, I told him I’d not seen any of his penalties, which was a little fib, I’ve watched them all,” he continued.
“Penalties, really they should be scored every time or the majority of the time, so I just try to get in his head a little bit, just try to play mind games with him. I quite enjoy it because there’s no real pressure on me to save. It’s worked a lot really.
“I am opening myself up massively if he does score for him to give me a bit, but luckily today I ended up saving it.”
Do strikers say anything back in those couple of seconds? “If he’s a really confident penalty taker then they usually give me a little smile and just look at me, whereas I know straightaway if they won’t look at me, you can tell straightaway by body language if they’re confident or not. And I think I found a little weakness in there and I just jumped on it and luckily it stayed out.”
He says simply delaying the penalty taker has an impact: “Of course, he doesn’t want to be standing there for 30 or 40 seconds, he wants to put it down and put it in.
“Everyone has their different ways of going about it. I’m not saying that mine works every time but it worked today, so that’s the main thing.
“I have saved a couple over my career, I saved a few last season as well. I’ve always done alright, I think. I don’t know whether I’ve got a great record but I like to think I’ve saved more than I’ve conceded.”
Turning to the clean sheet, his third of the season, he said: “It was pleasing, not the result we wanted obviously after the result 10 days ago or whatever it was, but we’ll take the clean sheet, I suppose.
“It’s a point, we wanted the three, we wanted to win the game but we’ll move on now to Saturday at Swindon.”
Asked whether he was expecting his chance, he said: “I’ve just been working hard really, as much as I can to force an opportunity. Since he came back in the team, I think Tommy [Tomas Holy]’s done well.
“I’ve just been working hard trying to get an opportunity and impress the new management and do as much as I can to show I’m up for the fight.
“It’s harder to try and show what you’re about in training than it is on a game day when it matters.
“I was just trying to force the issue, trying to get in and show him that I will give everything for the cause for the club, for himself and hopefully he’s seen a bit of that today.
“It was a busy game from a goalkeeping perspective. There were a few positives I’ve come out with, a few things that I’ll look at that I could have done better, but overall I’ll take it personally.”
Cornell and Holy are close and the Czech keeper congratulated him on his penalty save as he made his way off at half-time.
“We have a good relationship in terms of the goalkeeping unit," he added. “We always discuss things that have happened when he’s playing and I’ve always been the first one to go up to him and congratulate him on a good performance, which he’s had a lot of. And he’s the same with me. He’s happy for me as well.
“He was disappointed naturally [at being left out]. I think he’s been playing well. He’s made some big saves recently. But as soon as that disappointment’s gone, he’s supporting me, which is great.”
Cornell says things have changed a little bit for the goalkeepers with their coach Jimmy Walker having moved on a fortnight ago and Carl Pentney (pictured below), the academy keeper-coach, having stepped up on an interim basis.
“It’s changed a little bit,” the 30-year-old said. “I’ve worked with Wacka [Walker] all season and we’ve worked on lots of things, which we’d spoken about before I came in, a few of which I managed to do that I hope he’s seen.
“Now obviously it’s changed and we’re working with Carl and he’s another good coach, so fingers crossed we can just carry on improving as a unit.”
Reflecting on life as a goalkeeper and how it differs from the rest of the squad, he feels concentration is the most significant aspect.
“It is very different, there are so many aspects that are different,” he considered. “I couldn’t play outfield for four or five minutes, I’d be knackered, and it would probably be the same for them, if they did our work the boys would struggle.
“I think the main thing for us is concentration and focus and we see the full picture, so there’s lots of communication going on, I don’t know whether you can hear any of it from the side. It’s tough.
“Obviously it’s disappointing to have empty stadiums but as goalkeepers the communication goes further, it’s easier to communicate across the whole pitch, which does help.”
Quizzed on what new manager Cook has said he wants from his keepers, Cornell said: “He wants us to be really positive. With our decision-making, with communication, with everything and I tried to that as best I could.
“I could probably have come for a bit more in terms of crossing, but I think for my first one back I’ll take it.”
Turning to the club’s current position, Cornell says he’s not entirely given up hope of making the play-offs - Town are 11th, six points off with only three games left to play - even if he knows it is now very unlikely.
“It’s a club with a massive ambition and obviously we need to shoulder that,” he said. “I still fully believe if we win the next three games then potentially we could be in there.
“Obviously it will be a tough ask we need other teams to drop points. I guess we’re not where we want to be but we have to focus now on how we get to where we want to be.”
Asked whether he is excited about the changes which are in prospect under Cook and the new owners over the summer, Cornell said: “Of course, by the sounds of it there’s going to be lots of change. There’s lots of change already happening at the club.
“But fingers crossed I can be part of that and it can be very positive going into next season.”
Unlike a large number of his team-mates, Cornell will still be in contract next season, but he says that’s not made a difference to his approach.
“I think contract or no contract, I’m not sitting on it thinking ‘I’ve got another year’,” he insisted. “I want to be a big part of this club and this team and the manager’s plans, and contract or no contract I’m doing everything I can do everything I can to be part of that.
“Every time I put the shirt on I’ll try and give everything for the club, for him and hopefully that can continue.”
Photos: Matchday Images
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