Whittingham seeking final push from wilting Pompey troops

Ricardo Rocha missed the win against Tranmere with a hip problem
Ricardo Rocha missed the win against Tranmere with a hip problem
Matty Kennedy. Picture: Joe Pepler

Kennedy ‘surprised’ at Pompey omission – but determined to return

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Those wilting Pompey troops are being nursed through the final few games of the season.

But Guy Whittingham is confident his squad possess the energy to ensure their current positive run doesn’t slow – starting with Stevenage tomorrow.

A consistent selection policy has drawn out the best in the Pompey set-up during the past 11 matches.

A return of four wins and five draws during that time represents a remarkable turnaround from the team which had previously not won in 23 matches.

Yet the Tranmere victory marked a fifth game in three weeks for a squad still hindered by its small size.

Stevenage signals the first of four fixtures before the 2012-13 campaign draws to a close for the Blues.

But Whittingham is wary the congestion is beginning to leave its mark on his players.

He said: ‘Our players are not necessarily tired as in fatigued from a long season because some have played only a dozen games this season as they haven’t played much before they got here.

‘So from that point of view, they are not tired.

‘But, obviously, the game is demanding – especially when you are League One and League Two, with a lot of games over Easter with the Friday and the Monday.

‘The way the pitches are as well, it can be hard work for those players.

‘There were one or two aching after Monday (Tranmere), for sure.

‘We had to make sure we gave them the right rest period and we made sure they looked after themselves properly.

‘At this stage of the game it is all about the games, it is all about having players that are fit enough to play the 90 minutes so that is what we are preparing them for.

‘We are making sure we monitor what they are able to do, whereas sometimes on the training pitch you can do a bit too much.

‘We will make sure we are managing the time correctly.’

Ricardo Rocha is one player ready to return to the starting line-up, having been rested against Tranmere.

The veteran suffered a knock to his hip at Preston so moved to the bench – with Sam Sodje replacing him.

There are plenty of options elsewhere for Whittingham for tomorrow, too, with Dan Butler seeking to dislodge Shaun Cooper at left-back.

Jack Maloney nudged out Liam Walker on the left-hand side of midfield against Tranmere.

And it’s between John Akinde and Ashley Harris to replace the unavailable Patrick Agyemang.

Whittingham added: ‘Ricardo is fine now.

‘It was a hard pitch up at Preston and he just felt a bit stiff and took a bit of a knock on his hip.

‘It’s good to have him back and everyone else is okay.’

Meanwhile, Elliot Wheeler has joined Sutton United on loan. Dan Thompson last week rejoined Bognor for a month.