Morecambe keeper's limited celebrations after reaching the League Two promotion play-off final
Kyle Letheren admitted his celebrations were initially curtailed after helping Morecambe reach Wembley last weekend.
The keeper played an integral role in the Shrimps’ 1-1 daw with Tranmere Rovers, which booked their spot at the national stadium on Bank Holiday Monday.
Letheren made a couple of fine saves to frustrate the visitors, the first keeping out Paul Lewis’ volley moments before half-time with Morecambe 1-0 up thanks to Aaron Wildig’s goal.
The second came with 11 minutes of normal time remaining, pushing away Manny Monthe’s header which would have brought the aggregate scores level.
Once the final whistle went and the players had completed a lap of honour, it was back to the dressing room to celebrate the club’s first Wembley appearance since winning promotion to the Football League in 2007.
Except in Letheren’s case.
“I missed it all because I was getting drug tested!” he revealed.
“I said to them it was a once-in-a-lifetime chance, so they let me dance about for a few seconds but no more than that.
“It’s part and parcel of being a footballer but it was just Sod’s Law it happened on this particular day.”
The 33-year-old joined Morecambe in January, reuniting with Shrimps boss Derek Adams after their time together at Plymouth Argyle.
He’s made 23 appearances in helping Morecambe to equal their best finish as an EFL club and post a club-record points total of 78.
It took him 11 games to register his first clean sheet, though he did finish the regular campaign with three shutouts in four matches.
While Letheren may have attracted criticism for some of the goals conceded in his time with the club, there was no doubting his efforts on Sunday.
The save from Lewis was doubly crucial, ensuring Morecambe not only kept their lead, but also the initiative, heading into half-time.
His stop from Monthe was equally as eye-catching though, as the keeper admitted, he was just as grateful for the work undertaken by those in front of him.
“The first save (from Lewis) was an important time in the game rather than anything else,” he said.
“I got a strong hand to keep it out but the boys in front of me have been superb.
“We have had a great relationship since I came in January and they defended that goal with their lives, it was proper defending.
“To be fair, I’ve not been that busy and that’s testament to the way the gaffer sets us up.
“Everyone knows we’re a counter-attacking team but we have the centre-halves and Yann Songo’o ahead of them willing to put their bodies on the line.”
However, having reached the final, Letheren is calling on previous experience in urging his team-mates to come away with victory.
It will be the Welshman’s third visit to Wembley, having previously been there with Barnsley and York City.
He said: “I’ve been there twice, once on the winning side (York) and once on the losing side (Barnsley).
“No one wants to go there and lose, it’s not a day you remember, so we have to go there and finish the job.
“I think we’ve deserved it to a man for the efforts over the whole season, everyone has been absolutely superb.
“It’s a great day out for the supporters but now we’ve got to go and win it.
“It doesn’t matter who we play, we’ve got to beat them and we’ve proven this year by winning 24 games that we can beat anyone on our day.
“In my opinion, we deserved to go up automatically but it wasn’t to be so it’s down to us to finish the job off – and I want that winners’ medal on my chest.”
All bar two games of Letheren’s time with the Shrimps had been played behind closed doors under the roadmap out of lockdown.
Only the play-off ties have been played in front of fans, albeit with a limited number in attendance.
Nevertheless, those supporters who were present at Tranmere and Morecambe generated raucous atmospheres which Letheren appreciated.
He said: “What an atmosphere (at Morecambe). It was great to have the fans back.
“It’s the first time I’ve played in front of them and they pushed us over the line.
“Just as a player, you’re used to playing in front of fans and getting a bit of stick or abuse.
“It gives you that extra edge and I find myself playing better in front of them because it’s been a bit like a pre-season game up until the last few days.”
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