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INTERVIEW: We all believed we could do it

Ryan Edmondson on promotion, penalties and belief

4 June 2023

Striker Ryan Edmondson was the width of a defender’s toe away from getting on the end of the cross that eventually led to Omari Patrick’s equaliser in the play-off final at Wembley, but he wasn’t to be robbed of his own moment, with one of the calmest penalties you’ll ever see helping the Blues on their way to a walk up to the Royal Box and a step up to League One.

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We sat down with him – in an interview cut short due to team meeting commitments – last week to take about that incredible day.

“Honestly, I think the lads were gutted about what had happened during the season, with falling out of the top three, but I think if we could go back and swap places – no, not a chance!” he admitted.

“I think if you’re going to do it, it’s possibly the best way to do it. With this set of lads it’s something we’ll never forget.”

“The manner of the game was something we’ve had all season, it’s just another example of that belief we have,” he continued.

“You’re a goal down late in the game, you’re at Wembley, and it’s a play-off final, but then we go and score in the 84th minute or whatever it was.

“We’re actually very unfortunate to not go and win the game from there, within the 90, never mind the 120. We showed a real dominance in the second half - in fact in all of extra time.

“We had more of the ball, we defended well, we attacked together, and then we go and do it on a penalty shootout anyway.

“And we did that even though all odds were against us. From the off the coin toss meant the pens were at their end, they got to go first, and yet we still came out on top.

“We’d been practicing for a couple of weeks and all of the lads stepped up and scored, and the big man made a brilliant save as well.”

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That Patrick goal, finished so clinically, had seen the big forward step towards the ball as it came in, which forced a hurried defensive intervention that put the subsequent strike on a plate.

“To be fair, I’m kind of happy the defender stuck his boot out because I probably would have missed it knowing me,” he joked. “It’s one of those where, as a number 9, I’m a box player, and the ball is coming across, and it’s one where I got a stud on the end of it and it’s fallen perfectly for Marzi.

“No doubt about it he’s stuck it in the back of the net well, and that’s our equaliser. All of the hard work that Omari puts in, even playing as a striker sometimes, which isn’t is natural position, he’s just got his head down anyway and he’s done a job. He deserved that.”

That, of course, took the game into extra time.

“Honestly, the gaffer said as soon as we got together that we were the positive team,” he revealed. “When we got into the huddle he said look, they’ve gone here, we’ve got the legs on them and we’ve got the belief on them.

“You could see towards the end of the 90 that they were clinging on for dear life. We tried to be as relentless as we could, but that was difficult because of the heat and the situation of the game.

“It’s a big pitch as well, you know, and with it being a big occasion it does affect you, of course it does.

“After the gaffer had finished talking we spoke to each other as well, as players, and we were all saying that we believed we could do this.

“We were telling each other that we could get promoted here. I don’t think that belief left anyone’s mind once.”

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On to penalties it went.

“We came in as a group, and the gaffer said that after all the penalties and practice we’d been doing, not just last week, but leading up to the first leg of the Bradford game, which is when we’d actually started doing them, that he knew what he wanted to see,” he explained.

“The gaffer had recorded every single penalty that had been taken, so he knew which side we’d gone, if we’d scored, missed, or if the keeper saved it, and he’d put all of the data together.

“With that he got us in a circle and told us the order – Denno, Mells, Edmo, Mox, Charters – and told us that was the five. Then he ran through the rest of the list as well, just in case it was going that far.

“I think us five kind of got together and the message there was that we had to just back ourselves. We’d been doing it in training for the past few weeks, so it was a case of don’t change anything.

“Mind you, I was thrown a wobbly! I remember that after Denno and Mells had taken their penalties the lads came to me and they were telling me that the referee had said that the kick had to be one singular motion.

“In practice I’d been stuttering in my penalties and I was like, cheers for that lads, you’ve stitched me here.

“A Wembley play-off final, I’m about to go for a pen and you’re telling me that I’ve got to change how I do it! I just stuck to it, stuck to what I’ve been doing, and the keeper went the other way.”

Experience of a miss in last season’s play-off campaign with Port Vale was also a bjg help.

“Unfortunately for me last year, in the semi-final against Swindon, I’d done a different penalty and I’d absolutely shanked it,” he told us. “The keeper saved it and I thought to myself, do you know what, I’m just going to change my whole perception of a penalty.

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“That was my run-up, the way I take it, the lot. I wanted to reduce the risk of that ever happening again.

“I’ve found that with being able to look at the keeper means you can slow your penalty down, take as long as you can on it, and even as you’re doing that stutter you can watch the keeper the whole time.

“I must have taken about 14 penalties in the two weeks before Wembley and I think I missed one, when the big man saved one, and that was about four days before.

“Every other time the keeper has gone the wrong way, and luckily enough for me I’ve sent him the wrong way for this one as well, and I managed to roll it into the other side.”

And that was when manager Paul Simpson called his team meeting – so we’ll have to wait until July to find out how much Edmo is looking forward to life in League One.

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