MATT Brown has been man-of-the-match on three occasions in the FA Vase this season.
And in each case, the Sholing keeper was the backbone of a 1-0 victory, writes WENDY GEE.
He saved a Chris Flood penalty to get them over a tricky first hurdle at Winchester City in October.
Then he pulledthe shutters down on fifth round opponents Larkhall who were arguably the best team the Boatmen faced along their magical March to the Arch.
But Brown’s most telling contribution came at Wembley on Saturday where he summoned up another stubborn show of defiance to leave beaten finalists West Auckland Town empty-handed for the second time in three years.
Brown had missed the climax of Sholing’s Sydenhams Premier title-winning campaign with a groin strain.
But the 24-year-old – a teammate of Theo Walcott and Gareth Bale at Saints until the age of 16 – was back in tip-top shape, both physically and mentally, for the biggest game of his career.
“There were no nerves today,” he said. “It helped that we came to the stadium for a tour on Friday and soaked it all in.
“Once the first whistle went we were all zoned in and it was great to play on such a nice pitch.”
Although Marvin McLean was the match-winning hero, the winger readily conceded that without four top-drawer saves by Brown, Sholing’s story would not have had a fairytale ending.
Asked which stop had given him the greatest satisfaction, Brown said: “I liked the one in the second half from the (Dennis Knight) free-kick. He put a bit of pace on it, but I got enough on it to get it over.”
As for McLean’s winner, he didn’t get the best of views.
“I wasn’t sure what happened really,” he said. “I saw Marvy go through, hit it and it took a deflection and looped up and I thought ‘is it in or isn’t it?’ “Then I saw the reaction as they ran over to the fans, but there was no way I could get up to celebrate with them. I had to celebrate on my own.
“I was going to do a cartwheel but then I thought, maybe not, so I just jumped about a bit!”
Like McLean and several others in the Sholing squad, Brown came through Sholing’s youth and reserve ranks.
“It’s a process the club adopted (bringing home-grown players through) and it seems to be working,” he smiled.