LUCA Collins hopes the form he is having between the sticks for Witham Town is a suitable payment for the trust shown in him this year by manager Mark Ashford.
At just 18 years old, Collins is among the youngest players holding down regular first-team places in the Bostik League division north, but his is especially impressive as Witham's ever-present goalkeeper so far.
And he is more than holding his place on merit.
Collins pulled off a stunning save late in Town's impressive 1-0 win at promotion-chasing Maldon & Tiptree on Saturday to ensure they held on to their lead and completed December unbeaten with four wins and a draw from their five games.They now host Brentwood on Saturday looking up the table rather than over their shoulders at the drop zone and Collins played a big part in the team's transformed fortunes as 2018 drew to a close.
The shut-out at Maldon was his fourth clean sheet in December and he is grateful that Ashford has shown faith in his ability despite a testing opening part of the season that saw Town bottom of the league before their upturn in form in December.
Collins said: “There aren’t many young goalkeepers who get a chance in this league.
“Look at the sides we’re coming up against and they are all men, whereas I’m only 18 years old still.
“I know I have a long way to go, but I feel I’m taking my chance at the moment.
“The manager must have known a lot of goalkeepers he could have brought in with three to four hundred games under their belt.
“So the fact that he took a chance on me is amazing and I just want to pay him back for everything that he’s done for me.
“It’s brilliant what he’s done.
“Any keeper is happy with a clean sheet so to get four in a month is brilliant.
“I was with Colchester United’s under-23s last year and worked with (Maldon & Tiptree manager) Wayne Brown there then, so to get a clean sheet against his team now was special.
“We just have to push on into January now and keep things going."The former AFC Sudbury Academy player said it was not just him that was seeing the benefit of Ashford's belief in his players and now they had got past their tough start to the campaign, they were looking to press on in 2019.
Collins added: “The start of the season was not the best with new players and coaches, but
we’ve come together and we’re pushing on now.
“We’ve put that early period behind us now and that showed at Maldon & Tiptree.
“There aren’t many teams who go there and win.
“At the start of the season, we didn’t have the consistency, so we’d win a game and then go on to lose the next.
“But now we’re seeing results coming week-in week-out and that’s where the improvement has come.
“We’re so confident now.
“The team spirit in training and the changing room is buzzing.
“I don’t think it’s any one thing, but it’s just results that we’ve had have lifted everyone.
“We are properly pushing on now.
“I think the turning point was the draw at Felixstowe as we had been losing games and we took a lot from that point we took.
“Since then, everyone has come together, new players have come in to strengthen the group and we’re all pushing on now."
By Simon Spurgeon
Updated 18:10 - 4 Jan 2019 by swifty