Doncaster Rovers: De Gea’s Man Utd understudy Johnstone is a handy addition

Sam Johnstone. Photo: Steve Uttley
Sam Johnstone. Photo: Steve Uttley
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David De Gea might have been a catalyst in driving Manchester United towards the Champions League quarter-finals in midweek, but goalkeeping understudy Sam Johnstone is also proving more than a big hit between the sticks.

The Spanish shot-stopper was lauded with praise following an impeccable double save which denied Olympiacos duo David Fuster and Alejandro Dominguez during Wednesday night’s must-win match for United.

And following Robin van Persie’s hat trick which fired the Red Devils into the knockout stages of the prestigious competition, De Gea’s double save - sandwiched inbetween the Dutchman’s opening strikes - proved even more crucial once the final whistle blew at Old Trafford.

Travel a bit further down the M62 and in Doncaster you’ll find United’s young goalkeeper Johnstone is continuing to make a name for himself.

The 20-year-old is certainly making sure the Red Devils coaches are keeping an eye on his progress which has included some match-winning saves that have all helped drive forward Rovers’ hopes for Championship survival.

The loan deal of the youngster, who was brought in as a short-term replacement for the injured Ross Turnbull, comes to an end this month and Johnstone is in no doubt that his time at Doncaster has been nothing short of invaluable.

“It is great experience for me. As a goalkeeper I’m playing against big teams, good teams, and I’m coming across different situations in matches early on in my career,” said Johnstone who turns 21 on Tuesday.

“So it’s massive experience and hopefully I will keep going.”

A low point for Johnstone and his team-mates was, admittedly, the 5-0 thrashing they took on the south coast when Rovers travelled to Bournemouth at the start of this month.

But the on-loan man was keen to echo the thoughts of Doncaster manager Paul Dickov who said that the defeat would provide the ‘wake-up call’ his side needed.

“We took the spanking at Bournemouth and we had to turn that around, we’ve done that,” said Johnstone.

“What I have noticed in this league is that it is so tight at the bottom. You can win a few and get up, you can lose a few and you’re back in it.

“That defeat opened everyone’s eyes to knuckle down and get the results that we deserve and that we play for.

“I have come here and the lads are good players.”

Johnstone, who has loan spells with Yeovil, Walsall and Scunthorpe under his belt, had already penned a long-term deal with Manchester United before his arrival to the Keepmoat Stadium.

And the youngster remains realistic about his future with the current Premier League champions.

“I’ll finish the loan here and then it is nearly the end of the season,” he said.

“Just before I came here I had signed three years at United so it is down to the club there over the summer to plan and see what they have got for me next year.”