‘I still want to improve’ – U’s keeper Gilmartin

Keeper Rene Gilmartin has been in fine form for the U's, although he could not keep out this equalis

Keeper Rene Gilmartin has been in fine form for the U's, although he could not keep out this equalising goal from Jon Stead in last month's 3-3 draw against Notts County. Picture: STEVE WALLER WWW.STEPHENWALLER.COM - Credit: Picture: Steve Waller

Rene Gilmartin will be gunning for another clean-sheet, when Cheltenham Town are the visitors for a League Two clash tomorrow.

Rene Gilmartin, left, celebrates with team-mate Ryan Jackson after the 1-0 win over leaders Lincoln

Rene Gilmartin, left, has started transitioning into coaching over recent years. Photo: Archant - Credit: Picture: Steve Waller

The upwardly-mobile U’s triumphed 4-0 on the road at mid-table Northampton Town last weekend, to move to within one point of the play-off zone.

For Gilmartin, it was his eighth clean-sheet of the campaign, from 16 senior appearances, an impressive ratio of one clean-sheet per every two games.

And for the U’s, it was their 14th clean-sheet of the campaign, when added to the six shut-outs achieved by fellow keeper Dillon Barnes.

“Personally, I’m pleased with the way things are going,” enthused Gilmartin, following yesterday’s training session at Florence Park, Tiptree.

U's keeper Rene Gilmartin, looking for another clean-sheet against Cheltenham Town tomorrow. Picture

U's keeper Rene Gilmartin, looking for another clean-sheet against Cheltenham Town tomorrow. Picture: STEVE WALLER - Credit: Picture: Steve Waller

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“We had a good win for the group last weekend, and a clean-sheet is always nice. So I am very happy.

“I had to describe last weekend’s performance (4-0 win at Northampton) to the people back home (in his native Ireland), because I was actually quite busy. I had to make a few saves, and had quite a bit to do. Northampton launched many long throws from both sides, and they put the ball into the box very quickly.

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“But that’s how I expect it to be, between now and the end of the season.

“Last weekend’s win has put a spring in the step, but then we never get too down, and we never get too high, during the season.

“We dominated the match, and could have scored five or six goals. They put us under a bit of pressure, but we weathered that storm.

“The new signings have certainly helped. As a squad we have been on a high all season, but it’s good to have some fresh faces and some different characters in the dressing room. They have given everyone a lift,” added Gilmartin.

The U’s 31-year-old keeper, and goalkeeping coach, was referring to the trio of new signings who arrived last week, before the transfer window slammed at the end of the month.

Abo Eisa, on loan from Shrewsbury, scored the U’s second and set up the third, as a half-time substitute at Northampton, while Ben Stevenson (signed from Wolves) delivered the corner for the opening goal. Likewise, Callum Roberts, on loan from Newcastle United, made a favourable impact as a late substitute by earning a penalty, which Harry Pell unfortunately missed.

Stevenson should retain his place in central midfield against Cheltenham, while Eisa and Roberts will be pushing for their first starts.

“You can say that Cheltenham at home is a ‘nice’ game, but it’s another good test for us and we want to put on a performance,” continued Gilmartin.

“If we get the performances right, then the results will come, although sometimes in the winter months – when it is blowing a gale and it’s very wet – then the performances become secondary and it’s all about just getting the result.

“We can play most teams off the park, on a good surface, with our high intensity, but sometimes you have to adapt to the conditions.

“We just have to make sure that we get enough wins to stay around it (the top seven),” added Gilmartin.

Having begun his career at Walsall (2005-10), Gilmartin later had two spells at Watford, mostly as a squad player rather than as a starting keeper.

When the Hornets won promotion to the Premier League, in 2014, he was recruited as a back-up keeper to Heurelho Gomes and Jonathan Bond, although he never actually made a top-flight appearance .

Similarly, his first season with the U’s, in 2017-18, saw him play the role as an understudy to Sam Walker. He made just a couple of outings in the EFL Trophy.

But Walker’s summer switch to Reading has given Gilmartin a new lease of life, in terms of his playing career, in addition to carrying on his role as a coach.

“I want to bring more into my game. I still want to improve as a keeper,” said Gilmartin.

“I love the dual role that I have. I still want to develop the keepers that we have at this football club, and boost their drive to take my jersey. In fact, I think the goalkeeping department is in a very good place at the moment.

“Just as strikers aim to score goals, so keepers aim for clean-sheets. I want to instil that into the team, and I have a good rapport with Luke Prosser – he is the skipper and the voice in the dressing room – down the spine of the team.

“Playing football is huge. I was a squad footballer at Watford, and I would have been disappointed if I had not gone on to play more games when I left.”

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