ANDY AWFORD is preparing to blood Pompey’s young guns against Northampton.
The Fratton fans are set to be given their first significant glimpse of the club’s emerging talent tonight in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy (7.45pm).
Awford is aiming to throw in the likes of Ben Close, Bradley Tarbuck and Nick Awford against the Cobblers in the second-round tie.
Adam Webster is also set for his first minutes since August, while Ryan Taylor is set to start after a cameo at York.
Awford is hamstrung by competition rules which state you must play six of the players who appeared in the previous or ensuing game, or his six highest appearance-makers.
But that isn’t going to stop him giving some of his youngsters a chance to perform at Fratton Park.
Awford said: ‘All the young pros are being considered.
‘I’ve managed to drop a couple in away from home first. I think that it’s important they get that experience.
‘It’s key to their development but they have to play at Fratton at some stage, so I’ll give them a go if I can.
‘There will be changes and I’m looking forward to seeing the youngsters out there.
‘I think our fans will enjoy it.
‘There’s nothing better than seeing your home-grown players in the first teams.
‘I haven’t fully picked the side yet and the rules are an issue, but if we give some of the lads starts I know the fans will get behind them.
‘We’ll give them every chance to impress.
‘Some need minutes because they are young or because they are coming back from injury.
‘I always think, if you can, it helps to blood a youngster away from home.
‘That helps their development because there is not so much pressure having your debut away from home. That’s my preference.
‘If we can get the likes of Ben, Bradley and Nick to experience Fratton, I think it’s another part of that development.
‘You don’t know about them until you give them an opportunity – and I’m all about giving the lads opportunities.’
Awford believes the game is the perfect chance for Webster to get playing time after eight games on the sidelines.
He said: ‘Adam Webster will hopefully get some minutes.
‘He’s young and hasn’t played for a while.
‘It’s probably not gone as well as he’d have liked.
‘So he’s come out, but we’ll try to give him the opportunity to put in a decent performance.
‘If he tries his hardest the supporters will give him their backing. I know that.
‘It’s the same with all the youngsters.
‘It’s important not to put six or seven out at the same time, because they will need help when the going gets tough.
‘It needs to be twos and threes and see how they get on. That’s the only way you will find out about them.’