IT is almost a year ago this weekend that Simon Eastwood came in from the cold to make his first league appearance of the season.

Fast forward just over 12 months and he is set to do the same in Saturday’s top-six showdown with Middlesbrough.

There has been no official word on who will replace Jason Steele between the posts at the Riverside.


But having been Steele’s back-up on the bench for the past 11 matches it seems Eastwood will get the nod.

It is a big game to come into. Not one that will make or break either side’s promotion prospects. Far from it.

But a big game all the same.

There is a strong argument to suggest, then, that it is a game made for the vastly experienced Paul Robinson.

But the fact is Robinson has fallen down the pecking order after losing his place to Steele in September.

And what message would it send to Eastwood if he was overlooked?

After signing a new two-year deal in February it is clear he has a future at the club.

In contrast, and by his own admission, Robinson’s lies away from Ewood Park after six sterling years of service.

When the former England number one does depart, be it in January or in July when he becomes a free agent, he will leave big gloves to fill.

The good news is that Steele is showing he could do just that. After an up-and-down start, he has not put a glove wrong in the last three games. It is a blow, then, that the rules of his loan from Boro prevent him from facing his parent club.

But one man’s loss is another man’s opportunity and Eastwood has history of stepping up to the plate.

Cast your mind back to December 7 last year when he produced an outstanding performance on his Championship bow in the 0-0 draw with QPR.

On the back of a thoroughly demoralising defeat at Ipswich the pressure that day was significantly greater on Rovers than it is going into this weekend’s trip to the north-east.

Eight games unbeaten, it would not be a disaster if that run was to come to an end.

But what a chance this is to make another statement, like last month’s victory at Nottingham Forest.

Would Gary Bowyer, then, be better served playing two up top, bringing Craig Conway in for the suspended Tom Cairney and giving Boro both barrels? Or would he be wise to pack the midfield before bringing one of his big hitters off the bench in the second half?

Make no mistake Bowyer has some interesting selections dilemmas to make, not least who goes in goal.

But if the Rovers boss does go with Eastwood, and indications suggest he will, that afternoon at Loftus Road proved Rovers should be in safe hands.