GOALKEEPER Lewis Thomas made the most of an unexpected chance in the Forest Green side on Saturday with a clean sheet in the 1-0 win over Leyton Orient at Brisbane Road.
The 23-year-old Welshman stepped in for the injured Luke McGee for his first league outing of the campaign, with his other games this season coming in the Papa John’s Trophy and the FA Cup.
It was Thomas’s 15th league start for the club, but his first League Two game since last March, when he played in the 2-0 away win at Swindon, the last game before the 2019-20 season ended early due to the Covid pandemic.
“I am delighted,” the former Swansea man told the club’s official website. “It has been a long time, the last time I played was Swindon away last March so I was delighted to play and get three points and a clean sheet to go with it.
“I thought we were really solid. I didn’t feel under any real threat and I think I only had two saves to make.
“The boys dug in, really put a shift in and we were really good today.
“It was all about doing my job, trying to keep the ball out of the net as best I can and giving the boys a platform to play.”
Thomas has had to play second fiddle to Luke McGee since his summer arrival from Portsmouth, but a slight injury opened the door at Orient.
“I do enough work on the training field and do some extras and try to push Luke as much as I can,” he said.
“Unfortunately he has a little niggle so that gave me a chance to play and I thought I did alright.
“We have a good relationship, we talk to each other a lot and work on areas of our game that we think needs improving and what we think we do well and take little pointers from each other.
“Luke has been really good this year, really consistent and it has been hard to oust him but credit to him he has done really well.
“It is difficult to be a second goalkeeper but I have had the EFL Trophy games to hep me out and I have had the chance to do extras on the training pitch with the gym and it helps to keep my mind focussed.”
Rovers’ next game is arguably one of the biggest of the season – the derby clash with Cheltenham Town at the New Lawn on Saturday – and Thomas is waiting to see if McGee recovers, or whether he will get another opportunity.
“I will be ready and waiting as I have been all season and come Saturday whoever plays will do a good job for the team,” he said.
“I’d like to think I have given the manager a decision to make but it was all about me coming in and showing what I can do and giving myself an opportunity to play any more games that may be available.
“Orient were in good form so to come here and get a 1-0 win was a massive result.
“No one is really pulling away and a lot of teams are drawing so it was big to get all three points.
“We have got a fantastic group here, everyone knows their jobs and there is great quality here throughout the squad.
“Anyone who comes into the side is going to do a great job.”
Thomas helped to set up the winner with a passout to defender Baily Cargill, who in turn fed Nicky Cadden for the only goal.
“I got away with it a bit but that’s bits I have been working on and it came off and we scored with it,” said Thomas.
“I might put hearts in mouths a bit with my passing out but I feel that is one of my strengths and it paid off this time.”