FORMER Accrington Stanley keeper Jon Kennedy is hoping to be the hero who steers Halifax Town into the Football League to join his former club.
Kennedy is now the goalie at Town who face Hereford at Leicester City tomorrow (ko 5pm) in the Conference Play-Off final.
Reds boss John Coleman always thought he was a top penalty stopper - famously bringing him on for the FA Cup shoot-out against Bournemouth which Stanley won.
And Kennedy reckons he can keep the Bulls out tomorrow if the nail-biting finale to the season comes down to sudden death.
"I don't mind penalties at all - it is the extra-time that bothers me!" said the 25-year-old. "But I fancy myself to save one or two as a couple of the penalty takers tend to suffer with nerves. Sometimes you can tell by the players body shape which way they are going to hit it. Other times it is just guess work but I don't mind being the hero!
"I have saved penalties all my career - I have saved seven this season - the only time I never did was at Accrington for some reason!"
It has been an up and down career for Kennedy. He started off at Worskop, got snapped up by Sunderland, was sent on loan to Blackpool before he was released from the Black Cats and spent his first spell at Stanley in August 2003. He and Jamie Speare battled for the No 1 spot in the Reds first season in the Conference before both were released at the end in summer 2004.
However, after failing to get a regular keeper, Kennedy returned to the Interlink for the start of the next season but a freak training ground injury forced him to miss most of the campaign.
He ended up dropping down the leagues and signing for Witton Albion last summer but Conference promotion chasers Halifax had a keeper crisis of their own and Chris Wilder snapped him up in January this year.
"I can't believe what has happened really," said Kennedy. "I did think I would spend the season with Witton and then hope I was doing well enough to move back up. I was doing okay there. I had taken part in two penalty shoot-outs and we had won them both but there was also a change of manager.
"Then Halifax came in for me and I did think it might not come off before the deadline but I couldn't turn down the chance of Conference football - even though it was just an initial three month contract."
And he has more than played his part for them, picking up the Conference Player of the Month award for April after some stunning shows helped Halifax to fourth spot in the league.
"It has been a long season for me. I think by the time I have played tomorrow I will have played 55 games!
"I have played 18 for Halifax and I was stunned to pick up the Conference Player of the Month award. I didn't really think I had done anything special and I can't remember many great saves but I am happy to have it! It's a bit weird really!"
Halifax are the underdogs for tomorrow's (Sat) final with second placed Hereford favourites to make a return to the League.
But Kennedy says that suits his side.
"We had read how Grays were going to beat us in the semi-final and, even when we were winning, the commentators seemed to be talking about how Grays were going to come back.
"Mind you, it was a worrying game and I ended up covered in bruises from head to toe. I didn't enjoy that game at all but afterwards, when you have won, it is always great.
"We held on and now everyone is talking about Hereford and how they are the hot favourites and we are getting about a paragraph in some newspapers while they are getting the back page - but we don't mind."
And if this does turn out to be Kennedy's last game for the Yorkshire side, he hopes to go out in style.
He had his contract extended for the play-offs but doesn't know if he will get a deal next season. He is, though, looking forward to a special weekend no matter what the future holds.
"We are training at Nottingham Forest today and then we are going to look around the ground. I guess the nerves will then start.
"We have no fear of Hereford. Everyone who saw their semi-final against Morecambe said Morecambe deserved to win but Hereford finished second in the league so we know it will be tough. But we fancy our chances."
And then, if Wilder rewards him for his efforts, Kennedy could be back in the league.
"That would be unbelievable. The last time I played in the league I was about 19 or 20 with Blackpool and so it has definitely been a while!
"When I have been at Witton and Halifax, I have seen some Accrington fans who were telling me how Accrington were going to get in the league. It is nice to think that I could be there with them."