Mark McGhee praises goalkeeper Scott Bevan after his spot-kick heroics for Bristol Rovers
MARK McGhee has confirmed he sees Scott Bevan as Bristol Rovers' first-choice keeper for the future.
Bevan made a fine double-save from a controversial penalty in the Pirates' 2-2 draw with play-off chasers Gillingham – a result which extended their unbeaten home record under the new manager.
The former Torquay shot-stopper, pictured, lost his place in the side earlier in the season as Rovers brought in loan signing Michael Poke, with McGhee challenging Bevan to prove he was worth a recall.
And the manager has been delighted with the response from the giant keeper, who has turned in a series of impressive performances since his return to the team.
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"I think he's been absolutely terrific. When we lost Michael Poke, we knew we had lost a good keeper because he was doing really well for us," said McGhee.
"But Scott has stepped up and been fantastic. I look forward to him retaining the number one place because I think he's been brilliant. He takes pressure off us by coming for crosses and he makes himself a big target. He kicks the ball really well and I've been delighted with him."
After falling behind in the second half, Rovers hit back with goals from Eliot Richards and Mustapha Carayol and looked on course for victory – only for Gillingham substitute Dennis Oli to nod a last-gasp leveller.
But McGhee was far from impressed by two controversial penalty decisions from referee Dean Whitestone. He awarded the visitors a dubious spot-kick before the break when Danny Woodards blocked Danny Kedwell's shot, only to be penalised for handball.
The Northamptonshire official then denied the home side what looked a clear penalty when Matt Harrold was brought down in the second half.
"It was the linesman who gave Gillingham's penalty, but I saw it again at half-time and how he could judge it was a penalty from halfway across the pitch, given the speed both Danny Woodards and the ball were travelling, is a mystery to me," said McGhee.
"I couldn't understand why we weren't given a penalty at all. The referee's argument was that Matt went down too easily, but I thought it was like an assault.
"I don't think Gillingham could have argued if it had been given, but fortunately we didn't lose the game because of that.
"The referee made what I thought were two really poor decisions.
"That was really disappointing, but to come back from 1-0 down and go ahead shows how far we have come."
McGhee admits the state of the Memorial Stadium pitch is "an embarrassment" to the club – but believes it will be a lot better next season.
"The pitch is a huge handicap to us, but we can't do anything about it. We scored two goals on it and didn't get beaten," he said. "We should be apologising to Gillingham for asking them to play on it because it's an embarrassment, but we are digging it up in the summer and by next season it should be good.
"Our groundsman was here until 1am on the night before the game working on it, but there's not a lot we can do with it so we just have to get on with it."
Rovers now head for Crewe Alexandra on Monday and are likely to have to make changes to their line-up.
Left-back Jim Patterson was forced off near the interval feeling short of breath, and Woodards ricked his neck.
"Jim's situation was a strange one. We thought it was because he had broken his nose last weekend, but apparently it wasn't so we will have to see what the doctor says," said McGhee.
"Danny ricked his neck and said at half-time he wanted to try and carry on, but it soon became clear he couldn't really lift his head.
"We will train on Saturday and take stock. Mustapha Carayol finished the game with a recurrence of the hamstring problem which forced us to take him off at Swindon last weekend, so we will have to see if he can make the game on Monday.
"Jim and Danny will be struggling, but I thought Michael Smith came on and did terrifically, as well as Eliot Richards.
"I rested Matt Gill, but when he came on I thought he was the one who stepped things up and got us going."
McGhee's predecessor Paul Buckle has been appointed manager at Blue Square Premier club Luton Town.
The Hatters are chasing one of the play-off spots as they look to return to the Football League and Buckle, 41, has agreed a deal which could keep him at Kenilworth Road until the end of the 2013-14 campaign.