It's never easy for any player to arrive at a new club to take the place of one of the most popular figures in the team. That was the challenge facing Lee Robinson in January when he joined DAFC after first choice keeper Sean Murdoch was injured. Murdoch, the Pars Player of the Year in 2015/16 and in goal for the duration of the club record run of not conceding a goal that same season, was firmly established as the automatic choice in goals. Robinson was brought in by manager Allan Johnston, who had previously worked with the keeper at Queen of the South. He had been without a club since leaving Queens last summer and in his last appearance for his previous club, had misjudged a long punt up the park by - ironically - Murdoch in the last game of last season, against Dunfermline, with Nicky Clark getting a touch on the ball with his head from just inside the penalty box and the ball ending up in the net with Robinson stranded. So, all things combined, the move to sign Robinson was met with some scepticism.
As "dream debuts" go, Robinson had one of the best, named man of the match in the 2-0 win over Falkirk. He made several crucial saves in that game in early January and it was the perfect response to any doubters. It was immediately obvious that he was a different type of goalkeeper than Murdoch. Not as tall (Robinson is 5'11'', to Murdoch's 6'2'') but very agile, he also typified the newer breed of goalkeepers who are comfortable playing the ball on the ground and also building attacks by effective long throws. Robinson has a website and an Instagram page titled "The Modern Day Goalkeeper" where he gives advice and posts videos on modern goalkeeping techniques (links at the end of this article). Murdoch, in comparison, is a relatively traditional type of keeper, not as effective as a sweeper-keeper but providing a sense of stability in goals that Robinson had to strive to match.
As the weeks have passed, Robinson has enjoyed an excellent start to his Pars career. Except for one mistake at the end of a game against Morton that led to a winning goal for the opposition, he has been very consistent and has, to date, 8 clean sheets in his 13 appearances, which have all been Championship fixtures. There are so many different factors than can lead to shut-outs, not always down to the goalkeeper, so that comparing one keeper's record with another does not always tell the full story. However, Robinson's 8 in 13 is better than Murdoch's pre-injury numbers, when he had 8 clean sheets in 27 League and Cup games this season (4 clean sheets in League games). As for goals conceded, Robinson has lost 9 in 13 games (0.69 per game), compared to Murdoch's 36 in 27 (1.33 per game). Take away the 5 and 6 goal defeats to Queen of the South and Rangers, when Murdoch was not to blame for any of the goals conceded, and his record looks much better, although still not as good as that of Robinson.
Quite often, the "feeling" a keeper gives his team mates and fans is as important as statistics. It's the one position in the team where mistakes are most severely punished and it is important that the keeper is trusted and has everyone's confidence. Robinson comes across as quite an intense character, not as out-going as the popular Murdoch. There is no doubting both keepers' dedication to their job and they are both strong characters in different ways. Robinson does to emanate warmth and has not sought to build up the same relationship with the fans that Murdoch has. Does this matter? Probably not - it's not a popularity contest, after all.
Murdoch is due to see a specialist in London this week as his recovery from injury has not progressed as well as hoped for. Should both keepers be fit and available at the same time, Allan Johnston would have a dilemma, which is testament to how well Robinson has done so far. Three months ago, Murdoch would have been everyone's choice in goals in a straight choice between the two keepers. Now, either keeper would have the confidence of team mates, management and supporters. Murdoch is contracted to Dunfermline to the end of next season, and should Robinson's stay be extended beyond this summer, it would see Murdoch facing his strongest competition so far for a starting place since he re-joined the club in 2015.
"The Modern Day Goalkeeper" links: website: themoderndaygk.co.uk/#home
Instagram page: www.instagram.com/themoderndaygk/?hl=en