Eastie keen to prove Pompey worth

Pompey goalkeeper Simon Eastwood  Picture: Barry Zee
Pompey goalkeeper Simon Eastwood Picture: Barry Zee
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Gainsborough Trinity and Solihull Moors were the opposition for Simon Eastwood just six months ago.

Now the 23-year-old finds himself in the frame to establish himself as Pompey’s regular keeper.

The recent departures of loan-signings Mikkel Andersen and then Alex Cisak have contrived to leave the Blues with just one shot-stopper in their threadbare squad.

That is Eastwood, who has made just four Pompey appearances in four different competitions this season.

It has been a remarkable, rapid rise for the summer arrival, having spent last season playing for Blue Square Bet North side FC Halifax.

He was a fixture for his home-town club as they finished their 2011-12 campaign in third spot before losing out over two legs to Gainsborough in the promotion play-offs.

Eastwood found himself in non-league football following a mutually-agreed release from Oxford in May 2011 as he sought a regular first-team berth.

It was intended to be a temporary absence from the Football League as he turned down remaining at The Shay and a possible switch to Conference North Bradford Park Avenue this summer in pursuit of a return.

That came in the form of Pompey, who signed him following a successful trial period.

And for the keeper who started life coming through the ranks at Huddersfield, it was a gamble which is beginning to pay off.

He said: ‘I have always believed in my own ability and that has been important.

‘To be honest, I didn’t want to drop so low as the Blue Square Bet North league but Halifax was my home town and guaranteed first-team football. It was ideal for me at that stage.

‘I am definitely a Football League keeper, though, and am grateful to be here. Now I just want to prove it.

‘When I was at Oxford I had another year left on my two-year contract but I asked the manager if I could leave because I wanted to play first-team football.

‘I was at an age where I needed that.

‘Reserve games and the first-team are worlds apart. That was no good for me so I had to go out and play.

‘It was a gamble leaving and going into non-league football but it’s something I felt I had to do.

‘I certainly didn’t want to drop that low but it was guaranteed first-team football and with my home-town club.

‘This summer it was always my plan to leave Halifax and get back into the Football League, having had a season playing regularly.

‘I actually got interest from Bradford Park Avenue, I spoke to their manager once on the phone but told him it was not for me.

‘He then put it about that he was going to sign me!

‘I have never been there once in my life, yet on the internet it is down as me having joined them! It’s a weird one.

‘There were other clubs around that were interested.

‘One of them was Portsmouth, which was too good an opportunity to turn down.

‘Michael Appleton said he had heard of me and would have a look on trial. He told me if I did well I would go with the team to Spain for pre-season.

‘It has worked out well and now, if I get my chance to keep the shirt as long as possible, I must make sure I take that.’

Guy Whittingham has admitted he remains in the market for a goalkeeper but will now focus on free agents.

Several are expected to turn up at Pompey’s Eastleigh training base this week for the caretaker boss to run the rule over.

In the meantime, Eastwood is in the box seat – and he believes he is ready for his opportunity.

He added: ‘I think I have done all right. I’ve been solid and not made many mistakes.

‘I feel confident in myself. I have been working hard and putting the time in on the training ground – it’s about transferring it on to the pitch.

‘(Goalkeeping coach) John Keeley has always told me to work hard and it will come. It has taken four to five months but it has paid off and I feel sharp.

‘Hopefully, if I can get a couple of games under my belt and get some consistency, I will fit in well.

‘I am just looking forward to it now. This is the break I’ve wanted.

‘John has told me: “It’s yours to lose. If you do well you stay there”. And that is what I’m aiming to do.’