RYAN Clarke has dedicated his player of the month award to the rest of Oxford United’s defence after going through January without conceding a goal.
The goalkeeper was recognised as Sky Bet League Two’s top player after four successive clean sheets kept the side among the leading pack.
He is the first United player to win a monthly award since Jake Wright came out on top in August 2012.
Clarke was thrilled to win his first player of the month prize, but quickly shared the credit.
He said: “I’ve had a couple of nominations before, but I’m really chuffed to get it.
“Obviously I’m a small cog in the whole of the defensive department and I dedicate it to all the lads.
“They have all chipped in and played their part.
“I’ve said before it’s the best defence I’ve played behind and they’re the main reason why we’ve received it.
“To get four clean sheets on the trot is great. It’s impressive and the boys have put their bodies on the line, like Jake did in the Torquay game.
“If they do get past the boys then I’m there to do what I need to do.”
United’s rearguard has been the backbone of their promotion challenge this season, conceding just 23 goals in 29 games.
They share the best defensive record in League Two with Southend United, but have played one game more than the Shrimpers.
It is a title Clarke says everyone at United wants to claim at the end of the season.
He said: “It’s our little competition at the back really, as a group.
“We know if we can keep as many clean sheets as possible it gives us a great chance to get results.
“With the experience and the attitude we have at the back, it’s no coincidence we have the best defensive record in the league.”
Tomorrow sees Clarke go back to Bristol Rovers, where he learned the ropes as a teenager.
It is almost eight years since the goalkeeper left the Memorial Stadium, but he still looks forward to the fixture.
He said: “It’s an enjoyable game to go back to, it’s where I learnt my trade.
“They’ve got a good bunch of fans that get behind them.
“I get a bit of a good reception. I think some remember me, but the younger ones don’t.”