As last lines of a defence go, Keiren Westwood takes some beating in the Championship.
You could probably count on the fingers of one hand how many blunders the experienced goalkeeper has made since joining Sheffield Wednesday on a free transfer in July 2014.
Westwood has been a model of consistency, leading to him receiving a number of plaudits and awards last season.
His standards have not dropped this time around. There have been very few lapses in concentration and the 30-year-old has continued to command his penalty area with authority and class.
When required, Westwood has stepped up to come and claim a dangerous cross to ease the pressure on his back four or make a pivotal save to keep the opposition at bay.
There was a big turning point in the second half of last Saturday’s Yorkshire derby encounter with Huddersfield Town. Westwood produced a superb stop to prevent Emyr Huws from doubling the Terriers lead.
Speaking at a press briefing yesterday, Daniel Pudil, Westwood’s teammate, remarked: “That’s why he [Westwood] is on the pitch!”
Nonetheless, had Huws’ strike gone in, there is a strong chance the Owls would have crashed to their second Hillsborough defeat of the campaign.
But Westwood’s heroics paved the way for Carlos Carvalhal’s men to stage a thrilling late comeback and move one step closer to the top-six.
Pudil has had the privilege of playing alongside some top goalkeepers in his career, including Petr Cech and Heurelho Gomes, but the left-back holds Westwood in high regard.
“Keiren is a good goalkeeper and was named the best in the Championship last season,” Pudil told The Star. “He plays for his country as well so I’m happy to play in front of him.
“Everyone on the pitch knows we have good goalkeepers and that’s important.
“If something goes wrong or we make a mistake, it is good to know we have someone behind who can save us.
“It is the same when I play for my national team as we have Petr Cech and Tomáš Vaclík, who plays for Basel.
“I have always played with really goalkeepers behind me. It is always in your mind that if you make some kind of mistake that they can probably save your backside!”
Pudil, on loan from Watford until the end of the season, claims Wednesday underlined their promotion credentials by coming from behind to beat a spirited Huddersfield side.
He said: “It is the type of game you need to win if you are going to be up there. No one cares if you play well or not as long as you pick up the three points.
“We are sticking together even if we aren’t playing well. That is the most important thing. It was exactly the same at Watford. If you aren’t friends on and off the pitch, you can’t do achieve anything.
“We are fighting for each other and have a good squad and a possibility to get in the top six so we have to do what we can to stay up there.”
Today’s clash at Blackburn Rovers promises to be a tricky assignment for the Owls, with Rovers having recently appointed Paul Lambert as manager but Pudil hopes they can wreck the Scot’s first home match in charge.
He is acutely aware of the importance of nullifying the threat of prolific Rovers striker Jordan Rhodes.
“I know him Jordan well,” he said. “He is a good striker.
“He likes to hold the ball up and protect the ball. He is always in the right place. He knows where to go in the box which is why he’s dangerous.
“We have to take care of him but it is not just about him. There are other players who we need to stop. If we stop the crosses coming in, Jordan won’t have chances to score.”
After a year away from the international arena, Pudil was delighted to be involved in the Czech Republic’s two recent friendlies with Serbia and Poland. Now the left-back’s target is to keep performing to his maximum for his club to prove to his country he is worthy of a place in their squad for next summer’s European Championships.