BEN Kennedy never doubted that he had what it took to be a starting keeper in the A-League.
Not when he was shown the door by the Jets two years ago. Nor when the critics were circling after the Mariners had haemorrhaged 13 goals in the past two games.
Kennedy, and former Jets teammate turned Mariners goalkeeping coach Matt Nash, knew the 32-year-old had done the hard work.
On Saturday night, Kennedy showed why he is one of the league's great survivors.
With the Mariners fighting for their lives, the man known as BK made two miraculous penalty saves in injury-time to deny Jets' hired gun Roy O'Donovan and secure the visitors a pride-restoring 3-2 triumph at McDonald Jones Stadium on Saturday night.
Both times Kennedy dived full-stretch to his left to parry away the spot kick.
Jets defender Daniel Georgievski put the first rebound away only for the VAR to rule that he was among six players who had encroached.
"With Nashy, we watch a lot of video, and I felt Roy was going to go that way," Kennedy said. "I guess, I got lucky and he had to retake it. I thought he would go the same way and managed to keep it out ."
That O'Donovan, who scored in the 74th minute to spark the Jets into life, took both penalties was a point of contention.
"I leave it up to the players," coach Ernie Merrick said. "Credit to Ben Kennedy ... Roy rarely misses a penalty at training. With the encroachment, I think Adam Kersey (referee) made the right decision. If you score and both teams are in the box it is a retake. I didn't have a problem with any of it."
Kennedy, who lives in Thornton, played 114 games for the Jets and was their player of the year in the 2011-12 season. Unwanted, he joined the Mariners last season and was voted their best at the end of a difficult campaign. The Mariners' struggles have continued. They had leaked a whopping 56 goals before Saturday and Kennedy has often worn the brunt of the criticism.
Have you ever seen a crazier end to a football match❓❓— FOX Sports Football (@FOXFOOTBALL) March 16, 2019
⏰ 94': PENALTY.
⏰ 95' It's saved... but the rebound is in!
⏰ 97' VAR - we'll have a re-take.
⏰ 99' SAVED AGAIN.
Utter carnage in the @ALeague.
Ben Kennedy- what a hero!#NEWvCCM#F3Derbypic.twitter.com/wfVlnV9NIl
"To concede that many goals can dent your confidence," he said. "But I knew if I kept working hard, didn't let my standards drop, good things would happen. In the circumstances, they were big saves for us. I was happy to contribute to the team and help get the win. I probably should have done better for the second goal, so I maybe felt like I owed the team. We worked hard for the full 90 and deserved the three points."
New Mariners coach Coach Alen Stajcic, who had two training sessions with the team before Saturday, praised the gloveman.
"He produced a couple of good saves in the first half and to save two penalties in a row shows how strong he is mentally," Stajcic said.
After failing to craft a shot in the opening 45 minutes, the Mariners burst to life with goals to Jordan Murray (48th), Jem Karacan (64th) and Connor Pain (67th).
O'Donovan pulled a goal back and replacement Ronny Vargas scored from a parry in the 80th minute to ensure a thrilling finale.
"When you are up 3-0, you can switch off sometimes," Kennedy said. "We did let them back in it, but credit to the boys, we dug deep and held on. The past few weeks hasn't been overly great for us. It didn't matter who we played. It was just good to get the win."