Heaton hails role of goalkeeping coach Mercer in hitting top form

Key save: Tom Heaton denies Tomasz Cywka of Barnsley on Saturday

Key save: Tom Heaton denies Tomasz Cywka of Barnsley on Saturday

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Tom Heaton has hailed the influence of goalkeeping coach Billy Mercer on his outstanding form.

The 27-year-old has helped keep 10 of the 11 clean sheets recorded by Burnley so far this season, as the Clarets have become one of the most miserly sides in the Championship.

Sheffield Wednesday v Burnley'Sky Bet Championship'10th August 2013. Hillsborough''Burnley's Tom Heaton.''Picture by Dan Westwell (PLEASE BYLINE)

Sheffield Wednesday v Burnley'Sky Bet Championship'10th August 2013. Hillsborough''Burnley's Tom Heaton.''Picture by Dan Westwell (PLEASE BYLINE)

Only QPR have conceded fewer goals than Sean Dyche’s side, and Heaton, signed on a free transfer in the summer after being relegated with Bristol City, has been a huge part of that.

A vocal, commanding presence, Heaton has had to keep his concentration at times, with little to do in some games, but when he has been called upon, he has produced some memorable stops.

Saturday saw another, staying big to deny Barnsley’s Tomasz Cywka with the game finely poised at 0-0.

The previous week, he raced off his line to save from Huddersfield’s James Vaughan, and that reading of the game, being quick to sense the danger and get out and effect it, is something Heaton credits former Chesterfield keeper Mercer with for improving: “The save was at an important time of the game and I was really pleased - I’m even more pleased because it’s something that Billy Mercer has worked with me on an awful lot

“It was one of those things that when I came to the club and, fair play, he’s done an awful lot of work.

“There was one in the Huddersfield game, and one on Saturday, and I’m pleased the work we’ve put in is paying off a little bit and thankfully we kept the clean sheet.”

Heaton added: “There are a lot of factors going into it.

“There’s a little bit of technical stuff.

“Goalkeeper is one of those positions where it’s more of an art than a science. There’s never any one way to do something, there are always different things, what works for different people. It’s just about finding a way that works for you.

“I’ve tried a few things over the last few years from that position that haven’t quite worked.

“I’m pleased that I’m starting to feel something that’s working - it won’t work all the time, but I feel more comfortable with it, that’s the main thing.

“If you’re confident in what you’re doing, the more chance of saving it.”

At Huddersfield, Heaton holds his hands up for their opening goal, when former Manchester United clubmate Oliver Norwood beat him from 30 yards.

It is probably the only time you could point the finger at him all season, and he admitted: “I was disappointed because it was a misjudgement of the bounce on my part.

“It came a long way, and to be honest it bounced higher with a little bit more spin on it than I thought.

“In goal you only have to be a centimetre out and it goes in, so I was frustrated with it because it was an important time in the game. Even though they’d had the better of the game we’d hung in there, a little bit like we did on Saturday.

“As a goalkeeper these things happen so you have to have big enough shoulders to carry on.

“Thankfully we’ve got it back together again and picked up some results.

“You just take it on the chin and accept it’s going to happen at some point and make sure it’s a rare one hopefully.”

Heaton was at United with Clarets fan Norwood and smiled: “I know him well. I’m sure he had a grin on his face.

“He’s got a very good strike, with both feet. He’s got that in his locker. But it won’t change my opinion on what I felt I should have done with it!”

That was only the third time this season Burnley have shipped more than one goal in a game, and Heaton is delighted with the haul of clean sheets: “We’ve got nine clean sheets in the league, 11 in total.

“It’s a fantastic return and there’s a bit of pride there for me, as with the rest of the team because everyone’s involved.”

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