Mansfield Town keeper Lenny Pidgeley is convinced Oxford’s game-changing opening goal last week was down to a foul on him that went unpunished.
Ahead of tomorrow’s crucial visit of fellow strugglers Dagenham & Redbridge, Pidgeley said: “I am adamant I was fouled.
“He clearly put his hand in my face which completely threw me off the flight of the ball. It’s quite clear he jumped early but never made any contact with the ball. I don’t know how you can jump into the keeper, not get the ball and it’s not a foul.
“The referee said I had got to be stronger. But I don’t know how I can be stronger if I am being pushed in the face.
“Then later the guy catches the ball as blatantly as you want and everyone in the ground can see he should have had a second yellow and been sent off. “Obviously it’s disappointing to lose any game 3-0. On the little run we were on we were going into the game in decent form and we were disappointed not to come away with anything.”
He added: “It was not a great game and we have got to move on. We are now all focused on Dagenham and our decent home form for Saturday.
“Looking at the table about Christmas, Dagenham & Redbridge looked like they were right down there. But they have put a few results together and gone above us. But win and we go above them, so it is almost a six-pointer.”
Mansfield’s biggest problem this season has been their away form and Pidgeley said: “At home, teams sit back against us a bit and we take the game to them a bit more. I think we are best attacking as we have some flair players up there. If we can get balls up to them it works well for us.
“We can start winning away from home. We have only had the two games since I have been here and I think we were pretty unlucky at Morecambe not to get something from the second half.
“But home games are our bread and butter. Every team I have been at prides itself on making its home ground a fortress. As long as you do that it gives you a platform for going to away games. If you can do that you’ve cracked it.”
Former Chelsea keeper Pidgeley is on loan from Newport County and enjoying playing regularly again, though he will not be allowed to play when the sides clash in South Wales on Tuesday night.
He said: “It’s especially good at my age. I have just turned 31 this month and that’s a great age for a goalkeeper. You just want to be playing games. I have played quite a few in my career but I still think I could have played more.
“At Millwall I didn’t play a game for 18 months, just fighting it out as a number two. Here, like at Newport, I have come out for the opportunity to play games.”
Pidgeley’s goalkeeping upbringing could hardly have been better.
“I was at Chelsea from the age of 10 after being scouted playing for a Sunday league team,” he said. “I joined them as a schoolboy and came through their centre of excellence, got my apprenticeship and turned pro there. That was a massive club but it was my local club, the team I supported and watched, so it was pretty amazing for me.
“Claudio Ranieri sent me out on loan to Watford for a season. When I came back Jose Mourinho was in charge. That was when the club started really investing money and had some big players coming in. That was start of it all.
“It has stood me in good stead. At the time it didn’t really seem that strange to me, being 20 years old and training with those guys every day.
“But 10 years down the line and playing in League One and League Two I still see those players on the TV every week and I think, wow, that was some achievement at that age to be working and playing with those guys. It was a great experience and I learned a lot.
On Mourinho, he added: “He was great. He had the respect from all the players. When you can see players like John Terry, Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba listening, really paying attention and earning respect from those sort of guys, you know you must be doing something right. His management skills are the best in the world.
“I moved to Millwall on a permanent deal which I thought was a great opportunity for me. In my first season I played pretty much every game – 50 odd games. But after that I got injured and didn’t really get back into the team.
“Looking back I should have got out and I would have played a lot more games.
“Since then I have spent a few years just moving around trying to settle, but it didn’t really happen.
“I have been in and out of teams and moving round the country which has been tough.
“I settled quite well at Newport for a couple of years. But all good things come to an end. At the minute I am happy here, playing games and concentrating on keeping Mansfield in the League.”
Pidgeley wears the number 40 shirt for Stags, a number he has been associated with for some years.
“It was the first squad number I had at Chelsea and has been my user name on my twitter and facebook ever since,” he said. “It’s stuck with me and is a lucky thing for me. I have always had the number 40 if number one wasn’t available.”
Although Pidgeley won’t be allowed to play at Newport on Tuesday, he promised he would be there supporting Stags and helping likely keeper Sascha Studer as much as possible.
“It will be tough down there,” he said. “I will be there supporting Mansfield so I had probably better hide somewhere.
“I know a few of the boys there so I will give Sasha some advice. He has looked good in training and kept himself sharp. If he comes in he will do a good job. He is still at a tender age for a keeper.
“It is quite tight down there in the table, so if we can put a little run together it would give us breathing space and breed confidence.”