Those of us who have never had the privilege of playing the professional game can only begin to imagine what it feels like to take the walk towards the penalty box knowing that it’s ‘on you’ to find the back of the net and take your side through to the next round of a knockout competition.
For striker Gav Reilly that was exactly what he had to do on Sunday afternoon – with the added mental burden of knowing that the team had just fought back to all-square with seconds left to spare.
Speaking about the decisive kick after the game, he said: “It’s always a long walk when you’re stepping up to take a penalty, but you’ve just got to concentrate and make your mind up about where you’re going to put it.
“If you hit it as well as you can you always give yourself a chance. Luckily I’ve done that and it’s gone in. I think once it hit the back of the net I was relieved more than anything.
“We knew we were favourites coming into the game and we didn’t want to be the team people were talking about come Monday morning.
“We’re looking forward to the draw now. It’s brilliant for the club, we obviously get a bit of money for going through which is important in these times, and we get a bit of money for the coverage on the BBC. It’s massive for clubs at our level.”
On the game itself, he commented: “It was probably a good game for a neutral to watch because it had a bit of everything in it.
“We put a lot into the game so we’re just happy to be in the hat for the next round. I think we showed good grit and determination and we’re just pleased to get over the line in the end. The boys dug deep after we went 2-0 down.
“People look at these sorts of games and expect an easy win, but it’s never like that. Sometimes it can be harder coming to a team like this, and credit to Hayes & Yeading because they’ve put in a really good performance.
“It’s a shame for them that they can’t continue playing football because although they lost in the end they’ll have taken a lot of confidence from their performance.
“With how it went we could have easily buckled, but it’s one of those where you roll your sleeves up. We knew once we got the first one it would take the wind out of their sails a wee bit, and we’d keep knocking and knocking, and if you put any team under pressure, at some point they’re going to buckle. Credit to them, they put in a really good performance, but we’re just happy to be through.
“Some teams might have started to worry when the chances are going begging and you then end up two down, but we kept our spirit and we kept knocking on the door. In the end Jon [Mellish] has scored a couple to take it to penalties - he just can’t stop scoring at the moment.
“When it goes to penalties you’ve just got to keep your composure and be confident stepping up. Credit to Marcus [Dewhurst] as well because he’s pulled off two great saves. The second one especially, it’s an unbelievable save.
“Fair play to the boys who stepped up for the penalties as well. We’re not just one player, we have togetherness in the team, and it’s taken a team effort to get us over the line.”
With the goals to level the scores coming in the last four minutes of extra time, he confirmed that there hadn’t been any real sense that the game had completely gone, even after Nasha had doubled the home advantage.
“That just isn’t the way we’re built here,” he insisted. “With the characters we’ve got and the mindset that the gaffer has instilled in us, we never let anything go.
“We’re a team who will always keep going until the final whistle and we’ve shown that today. I think that’s down to the manager and the backroom staff, the characters we’ve got at the club, the mindset we’ve got – that never say die attitude we’ve developed.
“The gaffer wanted people like that when he was bringing players to the club, he spoke quite often about it. You need that, and there’s a real togetherness in the changing room at the moment. We had a sticky start to the season with a couple of defeats, but we knew we had a good team here.
“We knew once the ball dropped and we got that first win that we would kick on, and we’re seeing that now. The benefits of taking the punches in the first few games is that we’re now using it to our advantage.
“Jon Mellish is a good example. Credit to him because he’s the hardest-working player in the team. At the moment he’s definitely the first name on the teamsheet. He’s got a bright future. He’s still very young as well. He’s dug us out of a hole with his goals.”
And on his own season so far, which has seen him mix starts with sub appearances, he told us: “I won’t lie – I’ve been a wee bit frustrated, I’ve made quite a few sub appearances but at the end of the day it’s starts that I base myself on.
“But I know my chance will come, and I feel as if I’m doing everything but score at the moment, and hopefully sooner or later that first goal will come.
“As a striker I know I’m judged on goals, but I feel as if I keep working the way I am that the goals will be there. If I was coming away from games feeling like I hadn’t put the work in then I wouldn’t be doing my job for the team, so I’ll keep doing what I’m doing and hopefully that will bring goals as well.
“When I stop getting into the areas to score, that’s when I’ve lost. I need to keep getting into the right areas. With the one that hit the post on Sunday, I think I actually hit it too well. If I scuffed it a bit I think it would have gone in, but the team is more important. I’m looking forward to getting that first goal when it finally does come.”
Click HERE to watch an interview with Gav Reilly on iFollow United now.
Click HERE to see a clip from this interview on our YouTube channel. Follow the same link for more FREE content right from the heart of the club.