Dom Howson's Sheffield Wednesday column: Clean sheet record would cement Keiren Westwood's place in Owls' folklore
He is a top class performer and a master of his craft.
Vincent Sasso may have earned the bulk of the plaudits following his classy double against Blackburn Rovers, but Keiren Westwood spared the Owls’ blushes on Tuesday night. The goalkeeper’s agility earned Wednesday two more invaluable points in their pursuit of Premier League football.
Rovers pressed hard for a late equaliser which their spirited performance probably warranted but Westwood maintained his concentration levels to make two important saves to foil substitutes Marvin Emnes and Liam Feeney.
The Emnes stop was fairly routine but Westwood quickly rushed off his line to narrow the angle and superbly block Feeney’s effort.
An Emnes long range piledriver almost caught the Owls and Westwood out but the crossbar came to their rescue. It was a piece of good fortune but nobody should forget Westwood’s contribution.
Head coach Carlos Carvalhal said: “The best goalkeepers are the ones who make their presence when the team needs them.
“Teams have not created many chances against us in the last 10 or 12 games but Keiren in a few defences that he has had to do has been there and that’s what good goalkeepers do.”
It is true that Westwood has not recently been overworked. So far in 2017, he has been forced to deal with 27 shots on target in seven league matches.
Nonetheless, you still have to be ready when called upon and Westwood has stepped up. He is a strong communicator, a reliable shot-stopper and has shown he is willing to come off his line and claim crosses to ease the pressure on the back four.
Time and time again throughout his two-and-half-years at Hillsborough, Westwood has saved Wednesday’s bacon.
Westwood left Nottingham Forest, who host the Owls tomorrow afternoon, frustrated when the two clubs last went toe-to-toe in September. The Republic of Ireland international made a wonderful stop to keep out Apostolos Vellios’s header and prevent Forest from establishing a two-goal lead. The Owls went on to win 2-1 thanks to Kieran Lee’s late heroics.
At Newcastle United on Boxing Day, Westwood underlined his sharp reactions, tipping Dwight Gayle’s goal-bound shot on to the post when it was goalless. Glenn Loovens’ second half header gave Wednesday the win.
It has not been a flawless season from Westwood. There has been the odd mistake to remind everybody he is human after all.
But Westwood is a matchwinner and it seems the bigger the occasion, the better he performs. Should the Owls break their league clean sheet record and achieve promotion this season, it would be a fitting way for Westwood to cement his place in Wednesday folklore.