DONCASTER Rovers feel that they have unearthed a worthy successor to veteran keeper Neil Sullivan from within their own ranks in Gary Woods.
The 41 year-old Sullivan has been Rovers’ first choice keeper since joining the club from Leeds in 2007, but now faces a battle to dislodge a player half his age when fully fit again.
But when the time does come for Sullivan to either hang up his boots, or move on, he will do so in the knowledge that he has helped, along with goal-keeping coach Lee Butler, in the 20 year-old’s development.
“I think Neil Sullivan’s influence is certainly rubbing off on him,” said Rovers No 2 Richard O’Kelly.
“There are shades of Sully in his demeanour, in how calm he is under pressure and the way he deals with situations.
“He looks very assured for someone of his age and experience and long may it continue.
“He fills me with great confidence. He knows what he is doing - his understanding of the game is coming on in leaps and bounds - and the rest of the players also seem to have confidence in him.”
Like O’Kelly, the former Manchester United junior felt that Rovers deserved something from Saturday’s 1-0 defeat against Bristol City at Ashton Gate.
“Obviously we were disappointed to get beaten; you are always disappointed to lose any game,” he said. “But it was another improved performance and hopefully we can pick up a victory next time.
“We knew that they were on a good run of form but we didn’t go there thinking that we’d get beaten because of that.
“We went there to win. We think that we can win every game we play be it against the top side or the bottom of the league.
“We’ll just have to pick ourselves up and go again in Saturday’s home game against Cardiff. Like Bristol they’ve got a lot of firepower with such as Jay Bothroyd and Craig Bellamy.
“But we’ll just concentrate on ourselves and let them worry about us and hopefully the result will take care of itself.”
Woods, who signed a new two-year contract late last week, has grabbed his chance with both hands since coming in for the injured Sullivan.
“I’m enjoying playing first-team football,” he said. “I’ve made a few mistakes but at the end of the day in my position you are going to make mistakes. It’s how you bounce back which matters and personally I think I’ve come back and done well.”
He added: “I just hope that we can get a couple of wins and secure our position in the Championship and then kick on.
“I think that we’ve got enough points in hand over the bottom three teams.
“Obviously relegation is still a possibility but we think that we are good enough to stay up. If we continue to play the way that we are playing then hopefully results will start to go our way.”