PREVIEW: Bristol Rovers vs Sheffield United
GOALKEEPER Sam Walker believes being dropped from the Bristol Rovers side earlier this season has served to give him a much-needed "kick up the backside".
Walker, pictured, arrived on a six-month loan deal from Chelsea in August to act as a replacement for long-term injury victim Scott Bevan – but lasted just eight games before being ousted by recent arrival Neil Etheridge.
The 21-year-old, who let in 19 goals as Rovers struggled to find any sort of form, returns for the first time since September 18 for tomorrow's FA Cup clash with Sheffield United after Fulham denied permission for Etheridge to play.
"I'm looking forward to playing a game at the Memorial Stadium again and to get another chance to show people what I can do," said Walker. "I had a game for the reserves the other week and it was just nice to be back playing again.
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"It was disappointing to lose my place a few weeks back because nobody likes to be out of their team. It was up to me at the time to go one of two ways.
"I decided to use it as a motivation to go and work even harder in training and in the gym. It's been good for me in a way because it has served to give me a good kick up the backside and now I'm raring to go again."
It will be Walker's second appearance in the FA Cup. He said: "I played in it when I was on loan at Northampton. We lost to Luton, so it isn't a competition of which I have many happy memories.
"I went to watch Ipswich Town many times in the competition and it is one that I really have a lot of time for. It's a competition that means a lot to some people and not so much to others, but I'm looking forward to playing in it again."
Walker has yet to feature in a winning Rovers side and faces a difficult task if he is to rectify that record against a Sheffield United side that remains unbeaten in League One this season.
Rovers are aiming to bounce back from league defeats at the hands of AFC Wimbledon and Accrington Stanley, and Walker said: "It is a game that has no bearing on our league form, so it is one we can go out and enjoy.
"I watched the game on Monday night and you can see why Sheffield United remain unbeaten. They are a very strong and organised side and it will be a tough test for us.
"It would be a shock if we could win, but it would be fantastic for the supporters if we could get a good result."
Boss Mark McGhee insists his side will be putting pressure on themselves to win the game – even though they start the game as overwhelming underdogs.
"I don't care about pressure from outside the club," said McGhee. "The only pressure we care about is that which we put on ourselves from within and from our own supporters.
"Whether or not other people think we can win or not makes no difference to me. Our supporters will still expect us to go out there and to do our best to make progress. The FA Cup is notorious for giant-killings, so let's hope we are one of the ones being talked about as causing an upset on Saturday evening."