Chaplin can still make mark on Pompey's season

It's been a testing period for Conor Chaplin.

Sunday, 15th April 2018, 3:00 pm
Pompey striker Conor Chaplin. Picture: Joe Pepler

But the homegrown hitman has been backed to come through a challenging time, as he finds minutes on the pitch hard to come by.

And Oli Hawkins believes his fellow attacking talent can still have a decisive impact on Pompey’s season.

Chaplin is going through a tricky chapter in his Pompey career, after being left out of Kenny Jackett’s squad for the meetings with Walsall and Rochdale.

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Oli Hawkins celebrates Conor Chaplin's winner at MK Dons. Picture: Joe Pepler

The 21-year-old was an unused sub against Wigan and last saw time on the pitch when he was given a 13-minute runout against Gillingham on March 10.

The academy graduate hasn’t started a game since the 2-0 home loss to Blackpool in February.

Chaplin had high hopes for this season, but Hawkins had words of encouragement for the goal sniper.

The 26-year-old, who is also fighting for playing time, feels time on his team-mate’s side.

Oli Hawkins replaces Conor Chaplin against Blackburn earlier this season. Picture: Robin Jones

Hawkins believes Chaplin could also find himself at the heart of Pompey’s bid to go up very quickly.

‘Chappers hasn’t made the squad a couple of times lately,’ Hawkins.

‘He’s a great player, though, and he’s still young.

‘It’s a learning curve at the end of the day.

Oli Hawkins celebrates Conor Chaplin's winner at MK Dons. Picture: Joe Pepler

‘I class myself as a senior player because I’m 26 now.

‘I’ve been where Conor is at the moment.

‘When you’re young you just have to bide your time. You have to be patient really.

‘He can still play a part in those final games. Anyone who’s not in the squad knows it can change quickly.

Oli Hawkins replaces Conor Chaplin against Blackburn earlier this season. Picture: Robin Jones

‘Everyone has to be ready, be fit and training hard for their places.’

Like Chaplin, Hawkins has hardly been blessed with an abundance of playing time of late.

Brett Pitman’s brilliant goal form means he has his attacking berth nailed down. Hawkins missed three games with a hamstring injury and has been sitting on the bench in recent games.

But he is prepared to sit tight and be ready to make his mark when called upon.

And, like Chaplin, the powerhouse hitman is hungry for his chance.

Hawkins said: ‘For me, even if it’s for 15 minutes running my socks off and closing defenders down I’d be happy.

‘As long as some kind of impact is made I’d be happy and hopefully so will the manager.’

Despite some players finding playing time hard to come by, Hawkins explained there is a strong spirit coursing through the Pompey squad as the season reaches a climax.

He said: ‘There’s definitely a good mood around the camp.

‘Everyone wants the next game to come, get the wins and secure that play-off spot.

‘Wigan was an amazing experience. The crowd and the pace of the game was brilliant.

‘We got the result and it made us push on with the other recent results.

‘There’s a few games to go. We’re not planning anything yet or thinking we’re in the play-offs.

‘We going to keep fighting and keep pushing.’