Gilks’ chance to prove his fitness

Blackpool keeper Matt Gilks in action against Arsenal earlier in the season
Blackpool keeper Matt Gilks in action against Arsenal earlier in the season
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MATT Gilks will tonight attempt to prove he is ready to gatecrash the squad for Sunday’s visit of Arsenal.

The 28-year-old is desperate to win back his place between the sticks before the end of the season.

Gilks started the first 12 Premier League games, but hasn’t played since the start of November, when he broke his kneecap at West Ham.

He played the second half of last week’s reserve game against Wolves but boss Ian Holloway – watching from the stand – declared the keeper “was miles away” from a return.

Tonight, Gilks will start another second string game when Pool take on Bolton in a match being played at the Lancashire FA headquarters in Leyland (kick off 7pm).

“Matt probably won us quite a few points when he was playing at the start of the season, so it would be nice to have him back,” said Holloway.

“But he needs to be completely fit, and I didn’t think he looked that in the last reserve game.”

Holloway will find out tonight if Gilks’ fitness has improved, and the boss will also be able to run the rule over Billy Clarke.

The striker made his comeback after eight months out with ruptured a cruciate in his knee when he came on as a sub for the reserves last week. He came through without any ill effects and has been given the go ahead to start tonight’s contest.

Clarke can’t play for the first team this season – he isn’t in the 25-man squad.

But he is a key figure for next term, and Holloway will be encouraged to see the frontman making such a strong return.

Ashley Eastham will also line up in a Tangerine shirt again after his loan spell at Cheltenham ended.

The 20-year-old centre back made nine appearances in a three-month spell at the League Two club.

Matt Phillips starts, after being surprisingly omitted from the 18 at Fulham.

reserve team: Gilks, Neal Eardley, Chris Basham, Ashley Eastham, Salaheddine Sbai, Ludovic Sylvestre, Andy Reid, Keith Southern, Matt Phillips, Sergei Kornilenko, Clarke. Subs: Mark Halstead, Maluary Martin, Danny Coid, Liam Tomsett, Adam Dodd