Paul Merson has alleviated his chronic goalkeeping situation by completing a loan deal with Everton for their teenage starlet John Ruddy.

The 18-year-old arrived at the Bescot Stadium yesterday on a one-month loan, in the first instance, and will go straight into the side for tomorrow ' s visit to Scunthorpe United.

That's because the hand injury sustained by regular goalkeeper Andy Oakes before last weekend's calamitous 3-2 loss at home to Chesterfield is likely to keep him out for a couple of weeks, although the exact duration will be determined when the Saddlers find out the results of a scan.

Previously untried Rene Gilmartin went in goal against the Spireites but Merson wanted a more experienced player with the Irishman having only arrived in the off-season.

Ruddy joined the Toffees in the summer and has made three reserve appearances, keeping two clean sheets in 1-0 wins before this week's 2-0 defeat by Middlesbrough reserves but played an entire season for Cambridge United where he attracted interest from some of the Premiership's big guns including Manchester United and Arsenal.

"He is a talented young lad who won't let us down," Paul Merson said.

"It's a weight off my mind to have him here because we have two tough games coming up in a short space of time where we need a big presence in goal and he will give us that.

"He is a great prospect. [Everton manager] David Moyes spoke very highly of him and Arsenal and Man United don't show interest in keepers if they are not very good."

Ruddy made a big impression at Cambridge after keeping a clean sheet and saving a penalty on his debut.

He was one of few highlights of last season's campaign, which ended in relegation to the Conference for the U's but included an England Under-19 call-up for the tall young keeper.

Meanwhile Walsall's young left-back Jonny Harkness, on loan to Cambridge United, is likely to return to the Midlands when his loan expires after Saturday's home match against Altrincham.

The Northern Irishman was substituted at half-time in Tuesday's defeat at Grays.