When Tyler Walker joined Mansfield Town in the summer, it’s fair to say it was an eyebrow raising move.
The young striker had been with Bolton on loan in the Championship and a switch to League Two was as unlikely as it was surprising. Few would have foreseen the nimble 22-year-old dropping into the basement division.
He did and during his stay, he proved to be a fine acquisition for the Stags. His goals were a catalyst for their automatic promotion assault, eventually firing them to fourth. Whilst that was a disappointment, it would be harsh to blame Walker who bagged 22 goals in 46 matches.
Last night, when it mattered, Walker couldn’t find the golden touch. Newport did an excellent job of keeping him quiet for 120 minutes, then Joe Day was more than a match for him from 12-yards, saving his spot-kick during the shoot-out.
That miss cost Mansfield a place at Wembley and leaves them marooned in League Two next season.
As for Walker, he’ll go back to Nottingham Forest full of despair and disappointment. Missing the big kick meant he made headlines for the wrong reasons and that is the burden he’ll bear this morning.
What he must do is move forward quickly. Take out the penalty miss and he has a really good season behind him. Had a 22-year-old hit 22 goals in League Two for his parent club, he’d be the target of £1m bids; just look at Mo Eisa last season.
Walker’s reputation has taken a battering for one moment, but over the full season, he’s been a real driving force behind their rise the table. He should be going back to Forest full of renewed focused and impetus, targeting a first-team spot.
If, during the pre-season, he looks unlikely to be part of the first team set up, then League One is a minimum for the forward. He must make a step up and use his impressive strike rate as a springboard, rather than letting one moment become the millstone around his neck.