Bristol Rovers' Sam Walker set for FA Cup chance
BRISTOL Rovers' on-loan goalkeeper Sam Walker looks set to be handed the task of keeping Sheffield United at bay on Saturday.
Walker was drafted in from Chelsea by Mark McGhee at the start of the season with intention as acting as a replacement for long-term injury victim Scott Bevan.
The 21-year-old, however, has been consigned to the bench following the arrival of on-loan Fulham stopper Neil Etheridge in September as the manager moved to address Rovers' poor run of early-season form.
Etheridge has received praise for his performances in the eight games since arriving from Craven Cottage and McGhee was hopeful that Fulham would grant permission to play him in Saturday's FA Cup tie against Danny Wilson's League One side at the Memorial Stadium.
The manager was scheduled to discuss the matter with Fulham goalkeeper coach Hans Segers,, but looks increasingly likely to offer Walker the chance of a rare start.
Walker shipped 19 goals in the seven games he featured in as Rovers struggled defensively at the start of the campaign, but temporary goalkeeper coach Scott Bevan said: "I did feel sorry for Sam when Neil came in because I don't think he'd done too much wrong.
"It was just that we were in an unfortunate team situation where we were shipping a lot of goals at the time.
"Neil has been fantastic since coming in and has probably been our most consistent player along with Garry Kenneth, but I've been really impressed by the way Sam has handled the disappointment.
"He's a good goalkeeper, but also has a fantastic mental strength about him. He's training even harder now and if he comes in on Saturday for the FA Cup game then he'll certainly deserve his chance."
McGhee is understood to have been granted permission to play the rest of the players he has on loan – but suffered another setback yesterday when it was revealed that defender Tom Parkes has been handed an additional game suspension for a comment made to the referee as he was sent off at AFC Wimbledon on October 23.
The manager, however, can recall defender Michael Smith, pictured, who missed last Saturday's trip to Accrington Stanley after suffering from a mystery abdominal problem.
"The problem had been giving me some trouble when I was trying to sprint," said Smith. "I got checked out for a possible hernia, but the exact nature of what it actually was could not be pinpointed.
"I haven't got a clue what it was, but it seems to have eased off now and I'm pleased to be back in training and available for selection against Sheffield United on Saturday. It's a brilliant game for us and we'll be trying to cause an upset."