BROWNE ON THE BALL: Hemmings has been spot on for Boston United

Ashley Hemmings nets from the spot.''Picture: Sarah Washbourn/
Ashley Hemmings nets from the spot.''Picture: Sarah Washbourn/

So many things can run through a penalty taker’s mind when he places the ball on the spot and begins to mark out the steps back to his starting position.

Where to place the ball. How to outfox the keeper. Power over precision?

And that’s without the opposition fans trying everything they can to put you off.

No pressure then.

But ultimately, despite the kicker’s many, many mental battles with himself and the man between the sticks, there is only one objective - put that ball in the net.

We can spend our days debating the merits of the cheeky panenka, a stunted run to make the keeper call your bluff or a good old-fashioned Julian Dicks-esque thwack.

Ashley Hemmings.

Ashley Hemmings.

But those of us who grew up getting our footie updates on Teletext, or via Twitter these days, the be-all and end-all is what’s written inside those brackets... (pen) or (missed pen).

How tough it is to convert should never - I say speaking as an Englishman who has seen too many international tournament heartbreaks, someone who watches Boston United come unstuck in crunch play-off matches and one of the many stood behind that goal at Chester as Greg Fee stepped up - be underestimated.

In recent years United have been able to rely on the likes of Dayle Southwell, Ricky Miller and Marc Newsham to tuck the ball away from 12 yards.

And now it seems they have found their new dead-ball demon in the shape of Ashley Hemmings.

Ashley Hemmings.

Ashley Hemmings.

The winger scored once in his first 18 matches for United (and quite rightly, he did point out that a man in his position should be caring more about assists than goals).

But since taking over spot-kick duties from Adam Chapman - via James Clifton and Kabongo Tshimanga - he has netted five times in 10 games.

And never has keeping your cool been so important as in the past two matches when his goals helped prove the difference between stalemate and victory as United moved up out of the bottom three.

Oddly, his two most recent penalties have been a different style to his first three.

Ashley Hemmings.

Ashley Hemmings.

When first tasked with penalty duties, the left-footed Hemmings would sweep the ball low to his right, whipping it away from the keeper’s dive and into the side netting, the toughest place for the man on the line to reach.

But his fourth attempt at that style - in the county cup shoot-out defeat at Gainsborough - was struck a little firmer, clipped the post and edged wide.

Since then, Hemmings has hit more central.

The low placement against York and the too-hot-to-handle drive against Southport putting the emphasis more on hitting the target, albeit both delivered in different manners.

It’s an interesting shift in style and encouraging that Hemmings has put such thought into his penalties.

After all, the most important thing is not how the penalty is taken, but whether or not the ball finds the net.