SIMON Eastwood admits it has been difficult to deal with a lack of opportunities over the last 11 months.

The goalkeeper is set to play back-to-back matches for the first time this year when Oxford United take on Tottenham Hotspur Under 21s in the Papa John’s Trophy tonight (7.45pm).

It comes after Jack Stevens was diagnosed with Glandular fever last week, making Eastwood the club’s No 1 for the foreseeable future.

Full story: Jack Stevens out with Glandular fever

The pair have been teammates for the last five years and are firm friends off the pitch, but that does not mean the 32-year-old is happy to sit on the bench.

Eastwood said: “The keepers train hard, I’d liked to say harder than anyone at the club.

“Sometimes it’s frustrating, as you don’t get swapped in as much as outfield players.

“For a goalkeeper, it might only be injury, illness or a red card so it’s nice to get a chance, play a couple of games and see where it takes me.

“You don’t want to travel up and down the country just watching games, I don’t like watching football as it is so I’d definitely rather be out there playing.

“Jack’s done well, so it’s healthy competition.

“We’re friends off the pitch, but when we get on the pitch we want the same thing.”

Saturday’s win at Burton Albion was Eastwood’s first Sky Bet League One game since the derby defeat to Swindon Town last November, which saw him replaced by Stevens.

The 24-year-old had played every league game since then, until blood tests revealed on Friday he had Glandular fever.

Read also: Marcus McGuane set to make Oxford United return tonight

Eastwood said: “He mentioned last week that he felt a bit unwell.

“When somebody says that you kind of take it tongue in cheek and get on with it.

“As a goalkeeper, you never come out of a team if you’re just unwell – you get through it as it’s only 90 minutes.

“When they sent him for a blood test you could see it’s a lot more serious than that.

“I’ve heard he’s got to rest, it’s definitely the right thing to do – it’s not worth risking your health for football, or anything.”

Eastwood would have played tonight even if Stevens was fit, but he is typically honest about the Trophy.

The competition has opened with a group stage since 2016/17, when Premier League and Sky Bet Championship academy sides entered, and the experienced stopper is not a fan.

He said: “I preferred the competition when it was straight knockout.

“I think the gaffer said something about letting fans in for free to give it a bit more of an atmosphere.

“It’s not the fans’ fault, but the competition’s frowned upon by a lot of players and fans.

“With the 23s it’s a lot different, so it’s a million miles away from a league game or even the FA Cup.”