Shaun Wilkinson is enjoying the rare experience of regular first team football with Crawley's rivals for promotion to the Nationwide Conference.

The versatile Albion youngster is halfway through a month on loan with Dr Martens League Premier Division title chasers Havant and Waterlooville.

Wilkinson is in good company at West Leigh Park. Former Coventry stopper Liam Daish is joint manager and ex-Chelsea defender David Lee has just joined the club as well after a spell in Australia.

Wilkinson made his debut in a 1-1 draw at Merthyr Tydfil. Havant won 3-0 at home to Bath in his second outing, and the tenacious 20-year-old was named man of the match by the sponsors in a 4-1 victory against Cambridge City.

The Cambridge line-up included Roy Essendoh, whose goal for Wycombe Wanderers knocked Peter Taylor's Leicester out of the FA Cup last season.

Taylor was happy to allow reserve regular Wilkinson the opportunity to play some matches during a break in action for the fringe members of the squad.

Wilkinson said: "The reserves have not been playing at all and I am suspended for the next match anyway for five bookings, so this was a chance to get some games in.

"I live in Portsmouth and the ground is about ten minutes away, so it's handy for me and I'm just getting stuck in.

"I played in the centre of midfield in two of the games and at right wingback in the other one. It's a lot more competitive than reserve team football and they are really looking after me."

First team opportunities have been few and far between at Albion for youth team product Wilkinson in the face of intense competition for places.

He made the last of his three substitute appearances over the course of the previous two seasons against Barnet at Withdean in March.

"It looks like we are bringing in another loan player (Junior Lewis), but I see my loan spell as more of a stepping stone than a step backwards," Wilkinson said. "That is the impression the manager gave me before I left.

"He is pro-youth and I think I could do well if I get a chance. My pro contract is up at the end of the season, so the aim is to get another one."

Plans for two more of Albion's young pros to get some games under their belt have been blunted by injuries.

Daniel Marney was due to join Bognor on loan before a recurrence of the thigh trouble which has plagued him all season.

Scott Ramsay went instead, but he damaged ankle ligaments after slotting a penalty on his debut in the Boxing Day derby against Worthing.

The reserves return to action against Luton at Woodside Road next Wednesday, their first match since beating Bognor in the second round of the Sussex Senior Cup way back on November 27.

Dean White's side are back at Nyewood Lane in the third round against Hassocks on January 29.