For a goalkeeper, a penalty save to secure victory is like scoring the winner.
As Krisztián Hegyi’s teammates rushed to congratulate him after the No1 saved a spot-kick in the second half of the U21s’ 1-0 win over Tottenham Hotspur on Friday evening, the celebrations were just as joyous as when Ollie Scarles’ grabbed the opener on the stroke of half-time.
And for good reason too. Both were moments of his real quality from players nurtured by the Academy of Football, and talents who have been in and around the first-team squad in recent weeks.
A delicious free-kick from Scarles – the wing-back’s first at PL2 level - put the Hammers in front just as the first half looked to finish goalless, although it was Hegyi’s vital save just before the hour that ensured the points for Mark Robson’s outfit.
“My first thought was to go to my left,” Hegyi said, on his decisive save. “And he did. Maybe I was lucky, but I am delighted to get that save and help the team. We really needed that win.
Throughout, the young goalkeeper was a composed figure at Rush Green Stadium - as he has been all season for the U21s – collecting crosses and relieving pressure off a back five, who held their shape impressively in east London.
In a London derby win, there were a few neat saves too - either side of that memorable stop when Jamie Donley struck from 12 yards. But the No1, in typical goalkeeper's fashion, was quick to praise the performance of those in front of him.
“It’s a big credit to the boys,” added Hegyi, who was part of the group of Academy players who travelled to Romania for our final UEFA Europa Conference League group stage fixture.
“We are really happy to get the win. It was a really important three points. It was a tough defensive game. But we kept a clean sheet as well so we're really happy, as we dealt well with their crosses. We did not make any mistakes and I think we fought really hard for the win.”
Such defensive performances ensured the Irons picked up their second win of the week, having defeated Wolverhampton Wanderers 3-1 four days before beating Spurs to keep the feel-good feeling flowing into Friday night.
For Hegyi, the results are finally providing value for the U21s performances. And it’s hard not to disagree with the shot-stopper’s assessment.
He enthused: “We are finally smiling after the games. It is good for the lads and the atmosphere as well. We have to keep going after the break. We have a lot of games left in the PL2, so hopefully, we can climb up the table.”