ALEX SMITHIES is gaining rave reviews at the moment – and rightly so.
The 22-year-old produced a couple of stunning saves to keep a clean sheet against Bristol City last weekend and, in midweek, he was on top form in the first minute and the last to help preserve a point against Blackburn Rovers.
Teammate Sean Scannell, who scored his first goal for the club which proved the winner in the 1-0 success against City, paid tribute, saying: "He’s young and can go right to the top as he’s only going to get better.
"His concentration is amazing. He’s watching the ball all the time and I think that’s one of the reasons why he can pull off saves like that."
Skipper Peter Clarke also weighed in with praise.
"I have always thought of Alex as a top, top goalkeeper and he seems to improve every game," said the centre-back.
"The two saves he made towards the back end of the game against Bristol City were top drawer because, for large parts of that game, he didn’t have a lot to do.
"That attribute is a measure of all good goalkeepers, because when they are not involved for long periods they’ve got to maintain their concentration – and Alex does that.
"By having that mindset, when called upon they can come up with what’s required and, in Alex, we have someone who does that more often than not."
Against City, Smithies clawed off the line a second-half Sam Baldock shot and then parried a Stephen McManus effort in stoppage time.
Against Blackburn, he did brilliantly to tip over a stunning first-minute shot from Ruben Rochina and, in stoppage time, pounced superbly to keep out a goal-bound effort from Simon Vukcevic.
Meanwhile, Scannell is planning to heed the manager’s advice to get in at the back post when the attack is from the opposite side, and Grayson has already said he wants to turn the former Crystal Palace flier from a £500,000 player into a £5m man.
Scannell said: "It’s nice the manager thinks that.
"I’m listening and learning all the time and trying to put those things into practice in games."