Calm David Stockdale won't let panic set in to Hull City's leaky defence
FOR a goalkeeper that conceded just six goals in his first 11 Hull City appearances, it is safe to assume David Stockdale has not enjoyed the past fortnight.
A 4-1 loss at Bolton and a 4-2 defeat at Crystal Palace stand awkwardly as the two heaviest defeats of City's season. Even the emphatically-reassuring win over Birmingham last weekend saw two late goals leaked to tarnish the perfect afternoon.
Ten goals shipped inside three fixtures account for almost a quarter of the Tigers' total of 43 conceded this season.
Stockdale is the man tasked with ensuring the exception does not become a new rule when City travel to Burnley on Monday night, and he has every faith Steve Bruce's side will soon recapture their resilient best.
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"We're trying to put our finger on what went wrong but you can't look at it too in-depth," he told the Mail.
"It's an up and down league and we've just got to look to move on.
"Over the course of a 10-month season, these things can happen. People have to not forget about all those games before the last three. We've defended well this season.
"The biggest thing is not to beat yourself up about things if they don't go your way. There'll be lots of twists and turns yet."
Although a 5-2 win over Birmingham seven days ago ranked alongside the best of Bruce's reign, the defensive fault-lines revealed at Bolton and Palace have twice cost City their place in the automatic promotion places.
Stockdale, much to his frustration, was powerless to prevent a miserable evening at Selhurst Park on Tuesday.
A first-half penalty save denied Glenn Murray from the spot, but Kevin Phillips' quick-fire hat-trick, one that began with a hotly-contested penalty, clawed Palace back to within a point of the Tigers.
"There's no one any less confident," said Stockdale. "We're still a point ahead of Palace, a point behind Watford and six behind Cardiff. If someone told you that after you'd lost two of the last three, you'd be happy.
"Every side will have their ups and downs and it's up to us to take care of ourselves.
"You can't count anyone out at this stage. As you saw with Reading last year, teams can come from nowhere."
All City can do today is hope for misfortune to visit their rivals.
Watford host Blackpool this afternoon bidding to move four points clear of the Tigers, while Palace can climb into third if they are able to avoid defeat at home to Leeds. Leicester, not to be discounted in fifth, host Sheffield Wednesday eyeing a return to winning ways that would drag them within four points of City.
The Tigers will get their own opportunity to turn up the heat when travelling to Burnley in front of the Sky TV cameras on Monday night, where they will attempt to end a run of seven consecutive defeats against their bogey side.
Stockdale will allow himself a peak at the results of others this weekend, but is determined not to become "fixated" by City's rivals.
"It will be tight all the way down to the wire," he said. "There's three teams going for second spot and that's not to say Cardiff are home and dry.
"Everyone will drop points. If you start worrying about what other teams are doing, thinking we need this many or that many points, you can get fixated and worried.
"That's not good for anyone so our focus has to be on ourselves."
The notion of anxiety stalking Stockdale between now and May 4 appears slim. Few, if any, in the City dressing room appear more at ease contemplating the final 10 games.
"I'm not the type to get worried about things, not at all," he said.
"The lads call me laid back and I'm happy to take things as they come.
"You can't get worried about mistakes as a goalkeeper. If your team-mates see you calm and collected it has a positive reaction on them. That's just the way I am. I don't let things get too on top of me."
Do not mistake Stockdale's serenity for apathy. The on-loan Fulham goalkeeper has bought into the collective desire apparent all across the City squad and knows full well the stakes on offer over the next eight weeks.
"I understand what this means to the fans and the manager," he said.
"It means just as much to the players as well because you never know when an opportunity like this is going to come around again."
Promotion to the Premier League would bring an inevitable question over Stockdale's future.
City are the fifth club he has served on loan since joining Fulham from Darlington five years ago and, at 27, the desire to play regular football is beginning to itch.
Two years remain on his Craven Cottage deal but, with talks underway to extend the stay of Mark Schwarzer, there are no assurances it will bring the action Stockdale craves.
A crossroads is approaching and he said: "I can only see my future until the end of the season and then the two years with Fulham that's written down on paper.
"I'm still enjoying myself here and there's no reason to think a move here wouldn't be possible.
"That's up to the manager and to Fulham but so long as I've been involved with getting Hull promoted, that will do for me."
CITY rookie Dougie Wilson has joined Grimsby Town on loan until the end of the season.