He was key to Soham Town Rangers’ great escape last season, and Niall Conroy hopes to do the same for Haverhill Borough in their fight to remain in the top flight of the Thurlow Nunn league.
His debut performance for the Step 5 side in their 3-2 home victory over Thetford Town on Saturday gave him ‘confidence’ that the side ‘can definitely secure safety’.
The goalkeeper — who arrived from Step 4 side Cambridge City — said he hoped, however, to guarantee safety before the final day of the season, to avoid a repeat of Soham’s final day dramatic Isthmian League Division One North survival.
Conroy is the club’s eighth goalkeeper to don a Borough shirt in a league match this season as the club have struggled to find a suitable replacement for Paul Walker — who moved to AFC Sudbury at the start of the season.
The 25-year-old threw his hat in the ring in his first performance, as he made a number of vital saves to deny Thetford and help Borough take a maximum three points from the encounter.
And the relegation challenge could be just what the doctor ordered for a player who was, just a week ago, contemplating retirement.
He said: “It was a nice way to start at the club — I was seriously contemplating stepping away from the game.
“But this came along and it’s a chance for me to get back to loving the game. And I like a challenge.
“When I went to Soham, I managed to help keep them up and, on that final day, I had never experienced a feeling quite like that in football; the pure joy of it.”
Conroy was ‘gutted’ to be told he had become surplus to requirements at Cambridge City last month, after signing for the club of his childhood support at the start of the season.
Injury troubles damaged his first team selection over the season, with the decision made for him to be released a few weeks ago.
The Newmarket resident said it was the final straw for him, often feeling on the fringe of squads, despite putting in important performances.
He said: “I think I need to be part of a team pulling together to fight for something, I seem to keep getting left out of teams and it knocks me back.
“So it’s time to enjoy the game again and focus on a shared goal.
“I know a few of the lads and Ally Conway too, and know that they’re a good bunch, so it should be fun.”
He said the win, against a ‘good’ Thetford side at the weekend, could be a crucial catalyst in their fight for survival.
He added: “The next three games are at home so it was a big win on Saturday.
“I think it could push them on to a bit of a run now — I would like to see another nine points added to these three over the next three games.
“That, alone, could be enough to secure safety in the league. Everyone knows we’re so close, it’s not useless.
“Having now played for them, I have a lot of confidence in their ability.
“I think they can definitely secure safety, although hopefully before the final day.”
He also aims to provide both experience and consistency at the back, feeling the defence are ‘young and learning’.
He said: “I might only be 25, but I have played a good bit now, for a number of clubs, and have a bit of experience under my belt.
“And I can see they are very young and lacking a bit of knowledge in defence.
“But there’s so much potential there and I think I can help develop some of it, they’re improving and learning all the time.
“Hopefully I can stay fit, (as) I have struggled a bit this season, and give them everything I have.”