Nik Tzanev said that goalkeeping coach Ashley Bayes had ensured that he was fully prepared to take the step-up to first-team duties in his stride at Bristol Rovers on Saturday.
The New Zealand international produced a string of fine saves to earn a clean sheet at the Memorial Stadium, showing no signs of rustiness in his first league appearance since the opening day of the season at Northampton.
“Bayzo has been massive for me,” said Nik. “He’s always onto me in training and he has kept me on my game. In the two reserve games before this he was a real help as well. Day in and day out he has always had me prepared to take my chance. When the opportunity came around I was ready. It’s a massive step in my career, so I will be doing my best every week. We will always push each other in the goalkeeping sessions we do with Bayzo. He’s always pushing us to do better.
“The first two saves I made were important because it would have been a different game if they had scored then. I think it was key to keep a clean sheet coming into half-time. Also, if they had scored early in the second-half we would have been under the cosh. I am happy, but most importantly the lads in front of me were great and we pulled out a real performance to get a clean sheet.”
Nik added that he felt comfortable working with our defence on Saturday – and playing his part in building from the back.
“I have been here for four years now, so I know Will well, I have a good understanding with him. With DJ coming in, I have become close with him too, so I think we have a good relationship on the pitch. I am able to keep quite a high line with them, I try to push them up further, so that I can just sweep up those long balls over the top and it takes pressure off the defence.
“I try to give those angles when I drop off to receive the ball and the more we play the more we can build as a team. We will get more confidence from that and be able to play more football. I think we can see already that there’s a change in the football we are playing and credit to Robbo for that.
“The boys grinded it out until the end. There was a spell in the second-half for 20 minutes when they put us under a bit of pressure, but I thought we dealt with it really well. We had chances near the end to win it, but Joe (Day) pulled off some good saves. I trained with Joe last season when he was here on loan and I got on with him really well. I congratulated him afterwards. Obviously, I wanted us to score, but I congratulated him as part of the GK union.”
In case you missed Rob Cornell's post-match interview with Nik, you can watch it by clicking on the link below.