MICHAEL Ingham will be happy if York City’s FA Trophy final against Stevenage is settled by penalties on one condition – he does not have to take one.
The popular goalkeeper was City’s third round hero when he converted a spot-kick and later saved Justin Richards’ attempt as Kidderminster were beaten 13-12 during a record-breaking shoot-out at KitKat Crescent.
Ingham is hoping, however, that his responsibilites will be restricted to between the sticks come May 9.
The former Sunderland stopper was required to take a penalty against Kidderminster after all of his team-mates had successfully netted from 12 yards – an achievement matched by the visitors’ ten outfield players and then fellow ’keeper Adam Bartlett.
Ingham’s effort seemed confidently despatched but the calm exterior belied an anxious disposition.
He said: “I’d back myself in any penalty shoot-out as a ’keeper. I just wouldn’t want to take one again. That was the most nerve-wracking thing ever.
“If it goes all the way to the wire, you have to be prepared and, in my situation, you have nothing to lose. We’ve won two penalty shoot-outs this season so why not make it a third?”
City’s other spot-kick success came against Mansfield in the Setanta Shield last November with Ingham saving from Alex Jeannin.
In contrast, none of Stevenage’s cup clashes this season have been decided by penalties and Ingham feels that could prove a crucial factor if the final is deadlocked after extra-time.
Unlike this season’s Carling Cup final, however, he will not be profiting from on-pitch iPod technology like Manchester United shot-stopper Ben Foster to familiarise himself with his rivals’ penalty-taking habits.
He said: “I just watch the run-up and see how they approach the ball. Sometimes players change their minds, so they can go one way and then decide to go the other side on the day.
“It’s about being lucky enough to guess the right way and, hopefully, our lads then bang all five in. It’s all psychological.
“Sometimes players try to bluff you by looking at one corner and then going the other way but some have the courage to look at the corner they are going for. You have to try and read their body language.
“Against Kidderminster, I chose the wrong way too many times but those were the best penalties I have faced in my career. Hopefully, Stevenage’s would not be as good if it came to that.”
While impressed by Wembley, Ingham is not likely to be overawed.
With three international caps, he has played for his country in New York’s 78,000-capacity Giants’ Stadium and was on the bench when Northern Ireland beat England 1-0 at Windsor Park in 2005.
About next Saturday’s venue, Ingham intially joked: “It’s very, very impressive but not as good as Bootham.”
But the 28-year-old international added: “The changing rooms are big and it’s a lovely, wide pitch which will suit both teams. It should be an open game and one for the neutrals to enjoy.
“Our fans have endured a hard season as we all have but, hopefully, there will be thousands behind me even though that might mean it will be harder for me to keep in contact with the lads.
“I was lucky enough to play at the Giants’ stadium in New York. Unfortunately, we got beat 1-0 by Uruguay so I’m hoping it’s not the same scoreline at Wembley.”
Despite conceding five goals in two games against Stevenage, Ingham has been pleased with the 15 shut-outs he had enjoyed this season.
In his absence, Artur Krysiak and Josh Mimms also kept the opposition off the scoresheet in three matches and the City ’keeper is hoping for success at both ends of the pitch a week today.
He said: “I set myself a target of 15 clean sheets and we’ve surpassed that. I’m happy with how things have gone because we conceded fewer goals than Burton, who finished champions.
“Unfortunately, we’ve not scored that many and I hope we’ve been saving them for the final. We will go there as underdogs but we’ve turned over Oxford and Kidderminster already.
“If we perform, I’m sure we will do it.”