Eastwood puts down a marker in keeper battle

Simon Eastwood

Simon Eastwood

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Simon Eastwood took a big step towards nailing down his place as Pompey’s number one goalkeeper with two terrific saves in the 2-2 draw at Tranmere, according to boss Guy Whittingham.

The 23-year-old had little chance with either Tranmere goal.

But his first-half stop from Andy Robinson was top class as he tipped over a powerful drive that was destined for the top corner.

The former Halifax man perhaps even bettered that save in the dying minutes as he stayed big and made an excellent block to deny Liam Palmer as he bore down on goal in a gilt-edged one-on-one opportunity.

Aside from his safe handling and competent kicking, that performance should now see him given a chance to prove himself as the number-one keeper at the club.

Whittingham said: ‘I was very pleased with him.

‘It was a great save at the end.

‘When you get towards the end of a game, sometimes people get tired and can have a lapse of concentration but he didn’t.

‘He kept his concentration excellently and really kept us in the game in the last five minutes.

‘He also made one good save in the first half and then kept us in it when it mattered.’

Having come in for his first appearance since the 1-0 home defeat to Brentford back in November, Eastwood looked assured and confident throughout the contest.

But even after an impressive display, he will know himself that he has not yet established himself as the number-one goalkeeper after Pompey brought in the unattached Phil Smith this week to provide competition.

And Whittingham is keen to see that battle for selection push both players on to greater heights.

Whittingham said: ‘Eastie has trained hard all season and he’s got that spot at the moment but he will have to play well to keep it because we’re really pleased with Phil Smith.

‘It’s all about having that competition for places again.

‘Players are showing the right attitude to fight for their place and even though we have a small squad, there is some competition for places now.’

– STEVE WILSON