Chaplin: I can handle rough stuff

Conor Chaplin flicks the ball over Anthony Stewart on his way to netting his Pompey wonder goal. Picture: Joe Pepler
Conor Chaplin flicks the ball over Anthony Stewart on his way to netting his Pompey wonder goal. Picture: Joe Pepler
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CONOR CHAPLIN has vowed he can handle a physical challenge.

And the Pompey fans’ favourite is hungry to prove that against Wycombe this weekend.

Chaplin is out to keep his place in Paul Cook’s starting XI as they begin their FA Cup campaign against the Chairboys.

The 19-year-old will be handed a battle with a strong central defensive pairing against Gareth Ainsworth’s side.

Anthony Stewart and Aaron Pierre have been Ainsworth’s preferred duo in the middle for most of the campaign, bringing a muscular presence to their back four.

Will De Havilland broke up that partnership in the 2-2 draw at Doncaster last weekend, but stands at an imposing 6ft 3in.

In comparison Chaplin is 5ft 5in, but has shown himself to be unfazed by giving away height to opponents.

After scoring twice against Wycombe in September, he feels he can use his lack of inches to his advantage.

Chaplin said: ‘Wycombe have Pierre and Stewart who are really powerful defenders.

‘I relish those kind of battles. It’s something I really enjoy.

‘I prefer it if anything, because it poses a different threat for them.

‘They may prefer playing against a bigger lad than a smaller lad like me.’

Wycombe posed Pompey problems earlier in the campaign, twice taking the lead at Fratton Park before Cook’s side ran out 4-2 winners.

Ainsworth’s side showed the kind of threat they present on that occasion as striker Paul Hayes scored both of his team’s goals.

Chaplin knows his side have to find the answers to the physical danger offered by their League Two rivals.

He said: ‘They’ve got big, physical side who are strong and try to run through you.

‘They play to their strengths and are very dangerous.

‘They’ve got Hayes up front who scored a couple of great goals against us last time.

‘They pose a massive threat.

‘We have to look at that and try to stop them first and foremost.’

Chaplin has made just a single start in the FA Cup since making the Pompey breakthrough, with a further three appearances coming off the bench.

He’s already been on the scoresheet in the competition after he bagged in the 2-2 draw at Ipswich last season.

The Academy graduate is hungry to add to that in a competition which has been a major part of his football life growing up.

And, after being around the club since he was a youngster, Chaplin is fully aware of the significance of the cup to his team.

He said: Chaplin said: ‘It’s crazy. Every young lad growing up watches FA Cup games.

‘The games aren’t on Sky so everyone can see them. I remember watching them on BBC1 growing up.

‘It is the English cup – every boy dreams of playing in it. It’s a special cup.

‘After the history we’ve had in that particular cup it’s a big thing for the club.

‘That’s something which can never be taken away from the club, and rightly so.’