Alex Pearce insists Millwall team-mate David Martin will bounce back from his costly late error in Sunday’s dramatic FA Cup penalty shoot-out defeat to Brighton.
The Lions appeared on course to claim another Premier League scalp as Pearce’s header and an Aiden O’Brien goal had the hosts leading 2-0 heading into the final two minutes at the Den.
But Jurgen Locadia pulled a goal back for Brighton before an injury-time free-kick from Solly March was flapped at by goalkeeper Martin, the ball nestling in the corner of his net to take the quarter-final tie into extra-time.
A late red card for Millwall winger Shane Ferguson was the most notable incident in the additional 30 minutes as the tie went to penalties, where Jake Cooper blazed over the bar to send Brighton to a Wembley semi-final against Manchester City.
Millwall boss Neil Harris revealed after the game that Martin was “devastated” and had said sorry to his team-mates before later posting an apology on Twitter.
The Lions players have rallied around their distraught colleague, with Pearce telling the London Evening Standard: “We have told him to keep his head up and not to feel bad.
Gutted about what happened today and want to apologise to everyone at Millwall, the fans were superb as always and created an unbelievable atmosphere at The Den. I’m so sorry I let you down and I will come back stronger
— Dave Martin (@dmartin_gk) March 17, 2019
“It happens. It is the life of a goalkeeper. We all make mistakes as players, it is about how you react to it and how you respond. That will be the key now.
“Dave has been great since he came into the team. He showed a great mentality on Wednesday night against Birmingham after a long while out of the team.
“He kept a clean sheet, was talking all game and he was the same today. Obviously as a goalkeeper those types of things can happen.”
Asked if he felt former MK Dons stopper Martin, 33, would bounce back, Pearce added: “100 per cent, yes.
“He is mentally strong enough for it. He has been around the game for a long time. It is not a problem for me as far as I am concerned.
“I am sure he will be ready come the Leeds game and doing what he usually does. He will bounce back from that as he is a strong character, a leader in our dressing room. Come Leeds away he will be back for sure.”
Millwall had been the better side for much of the 90 minutes, creating better chances and limiting their top-flight opponents to minimal goalscoring opportunities.
Seagulls goalkeeper Mat Ryan kept out Mahlon Romeo’s penalty during the shoot-out after having recovered from an earlier error of his own which almost gifted Millwall the lead – and the Australia international said he spoke to counterpart Martin in the aftermath of the tie.
“I approached him after the game, it happens,” he said.
“Just after half-time there was a mix-up between Shane (Duffy) and I, thankfully we mopped it up.
“Unfortunately he probably looks at that one (March free-kick) and thinks he probably could have done better.
“I told him that one moment does not define him. He was solid all game apart from that. He seemed to have plenty of character himself.
“You have got to learn from your mistakes and see what you can do to not let it happen again. Aside from that he had a great game and I am sure he will be better for his experience.”
Meanwhile, quadruple-chasing Manchester City are awaiting Chris Hughton’s side in April, with Locadia determined to enjoy the experience as underdogs.
— Brighton & Hove Albion ⚽️ (@OfficialBHAFC) March 18, 2019
“It’s a difficult draw, but you’ve got to go there and enjoy the game,” he said.
“It is a new experience for everybody to go to Wembley, as well as our fans and our family.
“City are a good team, but you’ve got to enjoy the game and not think about too many other things.”