Cook: No Pompey rotation – but Ben Close will start

Ben Close. Picture: Joe Pepler
Ben Close. Picture: Joe Pepler
Pompey boss Kenny Jackett is unapologetic for the raft of changes he's made at Pompey. Pic: Joe Pepler

Form shows where Pompey’s season of change is going

  • Ben Close has featured just twice for Pompey this season
  • Adam Buxton will start at right-back against Wycombe following injury
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Paul Cook is adamant he will not resort to squad rotation for Pompey’s FA Cup campaign opener.

Yet the highly-regarded Ben Close has been handed an audition to stake a regular first-team claim.

Ben has been injured a lot and picked up hamstrings, he’s been stop/start, but remains a terrific young lad who always trains well and has a really good appetite for the game

Paul Cook

Close, Danny Rose and Adam Buxton will be among the changes for tomorrow’s visit of Wycombe.

The presence of Rose and Close has been enforced through suspensions to Michael Doyle and Amine Linganzi.

Cook is also weighing up whether to rest Conor Chaplin, Gary Roberts or Carl Baker following last weekend’s 1-0 victory at Cambridge United.

Regardless, Close will make only his third appearance of the campaign.

And with Linganzi missing for three matches, the 20-year-old has a prized opportunity to remain in the side.

Cook said: ‘Close and Rose will be playing but there won’t be any depth of rotation like we have done in other competitions.

‘Ben is doing smashing. He is a terrific young player and has done really well in the games he’s played for me.

‘Like any young lad he will make mistakes in games, especially last year away at Barnet and Yeovil which are difficult fixtures for any young lad to play in.

‘But I have full confidence in Ben Close to be a really good player.

‘Ben has been injured a lot and picked up hamstrings.

‘He’s been stop-start but remains a terrific young lad who always trains well and has a really good appetite for the game.

‘We’ve got a lot of good players, we are lucky, we’ve got a good squad.

‘All the lads can go in at any given time and play.

‘We’ve got great confidence in them.’

Definitely missing from Cook’s plans is Curtis Main, whose partner has recently given birth.

The striker, who has also struggled with injury during the past fortnight, was absent from last weekend’s trip to the Abbey Stadium.

The return to fitness of Noel Hunt has, though, presented Cook with the option to rest Chaplin tomorrow.

The teenager has featured in the Blues’ last 12 League Two matches, including seven successive starts.

Michael Smith is also a consideration, having barely been used of late.

Definitely starting will be Christian Burgess and Matt Clarke, as the Blues seek to retain their central defensive partnership.

Cook added: ‘There’s a couple of players we want to see, so there’s the opportunity to change the team a little bit and hopefully win the game.

‘I like giving lads a little break – but it will still be a very strong team.

‘It’s a team we feel can win the game and a chance for one or two players to come into the side and show they should be there regularly. We are approaching the competition with seriousness.’