GARY Bowyer admits summer signing Alex Baptiste is making a strong case to retain his place in the heart of the Blackburn Rovers defence.
The 28-year-old started the season at right back but was switched to his natural position in the centre midway through Rovers’ Championship opener against Cardiff City after Matt Kilgallon came off with a back injury.
Kilgallon is set to return to training next week but he faces a fight to win back his spot alongside skipper Grant Hanley given the performances Baptiste produced in last weekend’s win at Blackpool and the midweek defeat at Norwich City.
Rovers boss Bowyer, whose side welcome Bournemouth to Ewood Park tomorrow (3pm), said: “Because of the lack of numbers we’ve been able to bring in, we knew the people we did bring in had to have a bit of flexibility about them.
“We knew Baps had that but from the performances he’s given he looks like he’s being here a couple of seasons – he’s fitted in that well.
“He started off at right back against Cardiff and then slotted in at centre back and in the two games, but particularly at Norwich, he has been superb.
“What we’ve always said to the players is that the ones who are doing it in the shirt, keep the shirt.
“It’s as simple as that and Baps has put a strong case down to stay there as we knew he would.”
The early signs suggest that Baptiste, who is on a season-long loan from Bolton Wanderers, is another example of the shrewdness Bowyer can show in the market given the chance.
The Ewood Park chief has been restricted to just three new signings since the end of last season with his other new recruits being strikers Chris Brown and Luke Varney, who both arrived on free transfers, but he is continuing in his attempts to bolster his small squad.
Bowyer said: “At the moment it’s frustrating. Calls are constantly going in, we’re reviewing different targets and then moving on to the next ones, and there’s one or two situations with the Premiership boys.
“We’ve just got to keep working away.”
Brown, who is yet to kick a ball for Rovers following his move from Doncaster, is expected to step up his recovery from a knee injury by returning to training next week.
Left back Tommy Spurr, however, remains sidelined and there is a doubt over whether midfielder Corry Evans will feature against Bournemouth tomorrow after he picked up a knock late on in Tuesday’s 3-1 loss at Norwich City.
Bowyer said: “We’re going to have to assess him.”