When Yves Ma-Kalambay thrashed away Ash Taylor’s penalty during normal time of Tuesday’s Carabao Cup clash with Northampton Town, it looked as though the giant keeper had done enough to secure Wanderers’ passage to round two.
Sam Hoskins had other ideas with the equaliser, but the Wycombe stopper wasn’t to be denied a moment in the spotlight, keeping out Jordan Turnbull’s spot-kick in the shootout to enable Adam El-Abd to strike the decisive blow from 12 yards.
Having been deputy to Ryan Allsop for the Chairboys’ first two league games, Ma-Kalambay – who played three times last season and featured regularly in pre-season – said he was thrilled to play his part, but his biggest pleasure came from seeing his side reach the second round of the competition.
“As a goalkeeper you try to be helpful and do your job which is saving balls,” he said afterwards. “It was nice to save a penalty in the game and it would have been better to keep a clean sheet, but we go through and that’s the main thing.
“We have to look at the bigger picture and the performance was pretty amazing,” he explained. “We could have scored more than one and the way that we played and how the gaffer wants us to play was spot on. The personnel made that happen – we had a lot of joy going forward, we were very solid at the back, and the communication the whole way through the team was very good.
“It was great to see us win as a team, but even better to see everyone coming together to make it happen,” he added.
His save from Taylor came after a foul in the box by Dominic Gape and although the Cobblers skipper struck the ball well, Ma-Kalambay says his instincts were enough to help him keep it out to preserve the 1-0 lead at the time, and then to do the same to deny Turnbull in sudden death.
“I just tried to depart at the last minute and trust my reactions to do the job,” he said. “Penalties are a gamble and I was lucky enough to be big enough and get a strong hand to it.
“In a penalty shootout, the goalkeeper is always the underdog. You expect a quality player to score from the spot, but these days goalkeepers’ reactions are much better and faster.
“I was getting excited thinking that my turn to take a penalty might be coming up, but the quality in the changing room in striking the ball is unbelievable and we went through. The team knows that if I needed to take a penalty then I would do it!” he continued.
With a top-flight background in Scotland, Belgium and Romania, plus an upbringing at Chelsea, the 32-year-old brings a wealth of experience to the Chairboys squad and says he’s up for the fight for the number 1 jersey alongside Allsop.
“Ryan is a good goalkeeper and I have to accept the gaffer’s decision,” he said. “He played in the first two games and has done well, so it’s my job to give 200% every day, keep pushing and give the gaffer a headache.”