A goalkeeper making a debut on the opening day of the season is usually nothing to write home about.
But when you throw in a penalty shootout, progress to the next round of the Emirates FA Cup and a couple of match-winning saves in both normal time and the aforementioned spot-kick lottery, then yesterday was something quite out of the ordinary for Tom Hadler and the Fleet.
And the former Gillingham and Eastbourne goalkeeper admitted that the penalty decider against Hastings United meant more to him than any previous shootout he’s been involved in.
“I’ve not been in any like that before,” he said after the full-time whistle. “Certainly none where I’ve wanted to save them quite as bad that. That was certainly the best penalty shootout and the most exciting one I’ve had. But hopefully we don’t have to go to a penalty shootout again!”
There was added relief for Hadler as he admitted he was frustrated when Kenny Pogue’s shot squirmed beneath him for the equaliser.
“For me personally, I was disappointed with the first goal. And then you’re fighting to keep mentally strong and so to make those saves afterwards helped.”
The Fleet keeper made some crucial stops in the second-half but paid tribute to teammate Ben Chapman for his vital 92nd minute contribution.
“We started the second half very well and obviously as a team to concede a goal that quick after our goal isn’t ideal at all,” said Hadler. “It takes us back off that momentum. But Chappers has stuck it in from the edge of the box. Fair play to him, it was superb. As soon as he hit it – he does those often – I knew he’d have a good chance so I was so relieved. “
“We’re happy to have won that. In pre-season we’ve played a lot better than that for sure. I don’t think we played our best football today but at the same time we’ve ground out a result which is still a good trait to have as a team that want to go and achieve.
“It’s not just about imposing our game on everybody else, it’s also about getting through and no matter what happens getting a win. So we’ll take that.”