You would be forgiven for assuming Spartans’ lead at the top of the Lowland League table is a result of the rich scoring form of veteran striker Keith McLeod.
Ten goals in his last six appearances, including two hat-tricks, have given Real Madrid’s Ronaldo a run for his money in the goalscoring stakes.
However, the statistics at the opposite end of the pitch are proving just as promising, with Ainslie Park goalkeeper Scott Bennett not conceding since October 19 in a 2-2 draw away to Dalbeattie Star.
Tomorrow’s South Challenge Cup home tie with Whitehill Welfare presents Bennett with an opportunity to stretch his tally to five matches should his goal remain intact for another 90 minutes. “We kind of aimed for maybe one in three clean sheets at the start of the season so we’re above our expectations,” Bennett, 30, said. “It’s pleasing for myself, but it’s good for the defenders in front of me as well.
“It helps if we’ve got somebody scoring the goals and also keeping them out at the back, so it’s a good recipe for success. I just need to keep doing my job and let the strikers score the goals. But keeping four clean-sheets in a row definitely does give some confidence.”
Bennett does not warm to the sole praise offered in his direction, instead choosing to credit the performances of the four defenders in front of him who he believes have been sensational in breaking up the opposition’s attacks this season.
He said: “We had a few personnel changes against Gretna last week, but for a lot of games this season we’ve had a fairly settled back four, which always helps. It’s my first season at the club and my first time I’ve played with this squad of players and it’s been really good so far.
“When any striker scores a goal, it obviously does their confidence a world of good, so when a goalkeeper keeps a clean sheet, we take the same from that. I always have that mindset when I go out to keep it at zero at the back and if we manage to do that then we’ve always got a chance of getting a goal here or there.”
A former player of manager Dougie Samuel’s reign during his years studying at Edinburgh University, tomorrow’s match-up with the Rosewell club will pose familiar territory for Bennett. Taking the decision this season to sign for the Capital club from junior outfit St Andrews United has so far proved to be a bold move and one, he insists, he wants to make the most of. “There is a lot more football played in the Lowland League than the Junior set-up,” Bennett observed.
“Obviously the likes of Linlithgow and Bo’ness were always really good sides, but even a lot of the teams that are struggling in the Lowland League are trying to play it out from the back and try and play football the right way.
“They’re always tough games against Whitehill. We beat them at Ainslie Park earlier on in the league and they’ve had a few bad results recently, but that is sometimes when teams can come out at their best.”
Bennett was just as surprised as the majority of Lowland League followers on learning of the award of three penalties in the space of eight minutes during last weekend’s encounter between Whitehill and Civil Service Strollers.
Should a similar situation present itself with Whitehill striker Aaron Somerville standing over the penalty spot tomorrow, Bennett is confident of knocking the player off his stride. “I think Sammy (Dougie Samuel) will probably know all about it and give me a wee hint. But if he (Somerville) took all three, or even just one for that matter, then I have a technique of watching the run-up and take an educated guess.
“I’ve never heard of anything like that before. To get three penalties in the one match is really quite rare, never mind in the space of eight minutes.”