Lawrence in fitness race for opener

Liam Lawrence, Portsmouth
Liam Lawrence, Portsmouth
Plymouth Argyle's Remi Matthews. Picture: PA Images

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POMPEY boss Steve Cotterill has warned Liam Lawrence he will not feature in Pompey’s Middlesbrough opener unless he plays a pre-season fixture.

The midfielder has suffered a recurrence of the calf problem in his right leg which blighted the second half of last season.

It’s a problem which has kept him out of the friendlies against the Hawks and Chelsea so far.

Lawrence is currently on tour in America, where the Blues have fixtures against a Charleston Battery XI on Thursday and then Charleston Battery themselves (July 27). Their final pre-season match will be at Fratton Park against Real Betis (July 30).

Pompey’s campaign begins at Middlesbrough on August 6.

Lawrence tentatively took part in his first training session yesterday evening as he looks to return from his latest setback.

But unless he can prove his fitness in any of those friendlies, Cotterill has told him to forget about the Riverside encounter.

He said: ‘We will be stepping Liam up as the week goes on.

‘We just have to make sure the physios are happy to release him to full training. At this stage of the season we don’t really want any set-backs and it rolling into the first game at Middlesbrough.

‘But, in the next breath, we have got to make sure we can get him to a certain level of fitness where he is going to be fit enough to play.

‘To be honest, if he can’t play this pre-season he’s not going to be in the starting line-up against Middlesbrough.

‘If he doesn’t play and get some game time under his belt then I won’t be including him against Middlesbrough.

‘People have got to be fit.’

Pompey currently have a minor concern over Greg Halford ahead of Thursday’s behind-closed-doors game against a Charleston Battery XI. The 26-year-old took a bang to his knee against Chelsea at the weekend, forcing him off after 52 minutes.

It’s a complaint currently being assessed as Cotterill prepares for his opening American friendly.

He added: ‘Greg had a knock on his knee on Saturday, it is okay though and has settled down.

‘While I would have liked to have kept him on and got 90 minutes under his belt, I think it’s still early in pre-season and we don’t need to flare that up.

‘It was probably best to take him off.

‘We have cover in that area so needed to look at that.’