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Jon McLaughlin eager to cement Bradford City role
What a place to make your first appearance as a substitute.
If it was a shock for City’s players to tread Wembley’s hallowed turf in a cup final, then just imagine how Jon McLaughlin must have felt.
The odds were astronomical enough on a League Two side getting to the showpiece in the first place – but nobody then expected that both goalkeepers would get a game.
Matt Duke’s dismissal, though, suddenly plunged McLaughlin into the final half hour of the Capital One Cup. While he could hardly reverse the Swansea tide, it was an experience that City’s longest-serving player will rightly cherish.
And given that it has thrust him back into the first-team goal again, who’s to say McLaughlin might not be appearing there again in May?
“It was the first time in five seasons at Bradford that I’ve come off the bench – and they were pretty amazing circumstances to do it,” he said.
“It’s never what you want to happen to another goalkeeper. Dukey has been absolutely incredible and he’s a great guy. If anybody deserved to be the hero again at Wembley, it was him.
“But on a purely selfish note, it was great to take away those memories of what was still an incredible day for us. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity.
“The fans were amazing and a sight to see when you came out. It just gives you a taste of what things can be like – I was just sitting there looking at them at times.”
McLaughlin will not be resting on his laurels having been given this unexpected opening. Successive clean sheets have backed up Phil Parkinson’s decision to keep faith with him after Duke had served his one-game ban.
An impressive display at Port Vale in midweek was capped by an outrageous save to deny the league’s top scorer Tom Pope.
McLaughlin said: “Dukey has done tremendously well and kept me out and not given me a chance to get back in.
“It was unfortunate he was forced out of the Dagenham game with a suspension but for me it’s a point where I need to take my opportunity.
“It’s always a boost to get the nod and stay in the team and if I hadn’t taken this chance, it could have been the end of my season.”
City are desperate to keep their own campaign alive, with every game from here on in being regarded as a “cup final”.
McLaughlin is happy with the high stakes and anticipates another uncompromising afternoon with Aldershot at Valley Parade tomorrow.
“Teams know what we’re all about because they’ve seen a lot of us this season on the television,” he said.
“People want it to be a feather in their cap if they get a big result against Bradford. The Dagenham guys were taking photos of the stadium – we’re the cup final for every team we face.
“We’ve always felt it in past seasons. Teams come here and are a bit in awe of what they are seeing and the difference from their grounds.
“Now it’s even more so. But at this stage of the season and position we’re in, there are no excuses because we know what’s at stake for us.
“We need to give it absolutely everything in every game. The squad is good enough that if lads don’t have enough left for the next one then others can come in.”