Christian Ribeiro on a learning curve at Scunthorpe United
IF YOU wanted to describe Christian Ribeiro's season in a nutshell, take a look at last week's game at Leyton Orient.
It has been a campaign of ups and downs for the Scunthorpe United full-back, who experienced both ends of the spectrum in that 3-1 victory at Brisbane Road.
Having notched the opening goal – the second of his senior career following the first four weeks ago against Notts County – Ribeiro then gave away the penalty which offered the hosts hope of getting back into the match.
Not so long ago he might have beaten himself up about it, but the 23-year-old is starting to develop a mental toughness born out of a testing few months.
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He is, according to the man himself, a better player than when he signed for the Iron in July and, as he points out frequently, is constantly learning how to improve further.
"This year I've probably had a few bad decisions against me," said the Welshman, who faces former club Carlisle United at Glanford Park today (Saturday).
"I thought it was a bit harsh last Saturday. It did hit my hand but it was ball to hand.
"Lots of things like that happen over a season, maybe a few times to me this year, which is probably a bit unlucky.
"That's part of the test really. The mental test of it is to get over these little things and make sure you're always giving 110 per cent for your team-mates.
"I'm learning all the time, little things like that are testing me all the time.
"That's generally why you see more experienced players playing week in, week out because they have gone through these things and know how to deal with it.
"They are stronger mentally and they can play at a decent level more regularly.
"I'm playing week in, week out now and I've got to learn those things, so every week when I make mistakes, hopefully I don't make them, but when they do come around, they won't affect me so much."
You can include Ribeiro's own goal which kickstarted a 4-0 defeat to Doncaster Rovers in that bracket.
"At the time I was quite disappointed," he recalled.
"I thought I was in the right position, doing everything right and it was just one of those things.
"I've turned my head a little bit too early and it's just caught me flush; it went bang, straight into the net. It was just bad luck I suppose.
"That was my first own goal in professional football so there's a first for everything!
"I've learnt from that and next time I'm in that position I'll make sure I won't do the same thing again.
"If you start making the same mistakes you're not learning.
"Every player has got to go through things like that, you just have to learn from them.
"It wasn't great on the day but in a strange way I'm sort of glad it's happened because I have learnt from that.
"It takes a lot to get over something like that in a game and try to play well after that.
"It is difficult, it was a good test."
The United defender hopes he will only be finding the right net from now on as he bids to up his goal tally.
However, he admits to having had to rein in his attacking instincts.
"I'm generally very attacking but I've had to tone that down a little bit recently," said Ribeiro.
"I feel I'm improving defensively all the time, that was the main thing this year.
"I still like to get forward a lot, so it's great to be rewarded with a goal or a few assists.
"I want to be contributing to the team when I do go forward.
"I've always got more to give. I know for a fact I can play better all the time.
"It's nice to get a few goals in, that's one of the things I wanted to do – score a few more goals and set a few more up.
"Because we have been struggling we have been doing a bit more defending than attacking, but that's the job. I'm a full-back, I should be defending a lot.
"I've learnt so much in the last six months. I'm a different player now to I was in the summer and hopefully when next summer comes I'll be a different player again – a better player."
Ribeiro will no doubt be looking to prove how far he has progressed against the club where he spent a loan spell last season.
"It's been tough for them this year. They've been mid-table, then bottom half and now they've dropped closer," he said.
"I feel for them and I speak to a few of them regularly, but that's part of football, it is tough. There's no mercy in football unfortunately.
"Although lots of them are my friends and I thoroughly enjoyed working with them, I do hope we have a good win on Saturday."