Danny Rogers is the only Championship goalkeeper to stand up to Hearts. Dumbarton’s No.1 kept a clean sheet in last month’s goalless draw at the Bet Butler Stadium and heads to Tynecastle this week planning an encore.
Whilst counterparts at Rangers, Hibs and every other club in the league have been unable to keep the free-scoring Tynecastle side at bay, Rogers has a record to be proud of. He has conceded just twice in his last six Dumbarton matches.
He kept Hibs out last week, helped by a dubious call on whether Dominique Malonga’s penalty crossed the goal line. After Hearts this weekend he faces Rangers. It’s a busy period for the young Aberdeen keeper, who is on loan at Dumbarton until January to gain first-team experience.
“We’ve got three big games in a row – Hibs, Hearts and then Rangers,” said the 20-year-old. “Hibs went well, I got a clean sheet and we played really well. We got a result against Hearts at home so hopefully we can do the same this time, or maybe even go one better. We know it’s going to be tough.
“We’re the only team they’ve dropped points against. That’s a big plus for us. It’s not just me, it’s down to the defenders and the rest of the lads as well. Tynecastle is a massive test at a big ground and I expect it will be a sell-out crowd.
“It will probably be even more hostile this week than last week because I think all the tickets are sold out. I’ve never played at Tynecastle, but I know the stands are right on top of the pitch so I’m expecting the atmosphere to be really good. It will be hostile and we’ll have to deal with that. It’s a big test and it’s great experience.
“Last time we played them at Dumbarton, Hearts didn’t have that many chances. It was actually one of my quieter games. That’s not down to me, it’s down to the team defending really well. I just hope we can keep up the same levels. It will be a lot harder at Tynecastle, but I believe I can get another clean sheet and we can maybe even nick a winner. Hearts have to drop points some time.”
Controversy surrounded Rogers last week at Easter Road. Malonga’s penalty squirmed beneath his body and appeared to cross the line before he clawed it back. Referee Barry Cook said it didn’t, and the injustice effectively denied Hibs three points. Rogers is honest enough to admit he got lucky.
“At the time, I thought it was really close and could’ve gone either way. I’ve looked back at the video and it’s not a clear picture but it does look in, to be honest. I was just happy the referee didn’t give it.
“You get a stroke of luck sometimes and I happened to get it last week. I just continued playing hoping the referee wouldn’t blow his whistle and he didn’t.”
Rogers’ long-term aim is to return to Aberdeen and challenge for a first-team place. For now, he is relishing the exposure and game time at Dumbarton, who could move to extend his loan into next year.
“Going on loan has been a great move,” he said. “As soon as I found out Dumbarton was an option, I was delighted. Especially with Hibs, Hearts and Rangers in this league this year. I was on loan at Airdrie last year but this is my first real loan. I think I’m playing at a good level and hopefully I can keep going.”
The Dublin-born goalkeeper’s performances led to a Republic of Ireland Under-21 debut against Norway in Drammen last Thursday. Proud as he was to represent his country and take another step towards a possible full call-up, flight delays put Rogers’ appearance at Easter Road on the Saturday in serious jeopardy.
“I was waiting in the airport in Oslo for my flight back to Glasgow and the screen kept saying ‘flight delayed’. Then it comes up ‘flight cancelled’. I rang my agent and said, ‘this flight’s cancelled and I don’t know what I’m going to do’. He rang Ian Murray [Dumbarton manager] and told him the flight was cancelled and that it was doubtful whether I’d make the Hibs game because I couldn’t get home.
“Then, for some reason, 20 minutes later, it popped back up on the screen in the airport that the flight was back on, but it was delayed a few hours. It was a long day. I eventually got home about 10 o’clock so it was straight to bed and then back up for the game in the morning. It was a nightmare.
“I was going into the game pretty tired and I was quite worried about trying to perform. I was absolutely shattered, but it worked out well. I’ve got no worries after that.
“I’d been away with the Ireland Under-19s before and there’s no real pressure on you. It’s more of a kids’ game. With the Under-21s, a lot of your team-mates are playing first-team football at their clubs so they take it really seriously. They’re going straight back into massive games.
“Some of the ones who didn’t have a game were going out on the Thursday night after the Norway game, but I wasn’t keen. I stayed in because I knew I had the Hibs game on the Saturday.”
Such professionalism and dedication are serving Rogers well. Tynecastle will be the biggest test of his fledgling career, but he has stood up to the challenge against Hearts once and is fully prepared to do so again.