Is FA Cup clash a useful yardstick or unwanted distraction for Portsmouth

Pompey writer Jordan Cross assesses the pre-game talking points as Kenny Jackett's men prepare for the FA Cup trip to Norwich.

Friday, 4th January 2019, 2:11 pm
Updated Thursday, 10th January 2019, 2:24 pm
The Norwich clash will be a test for Matt Clarke. Picture: Joe Pepler

Championship Barometer

Just seven of Pompey's existing squad have played in the Championship before.

And of that number, only three can be regarded as likely starters as Kenny Jackett's side take on an outfit with designs on making it to the Premier League.

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The Norwich clash will be a test for Matt Clarke. Picture: Joe Pepler

Matt Clarke, Ben Thompson and Tom Naylor are the trio nailed on to be in the first XI who've had game time in the second tier.

David Wheeler, Chrisian Burgess, Andre Green and Brett Pitman are likely to be the men on the bench who've done likewise.

With Jamal Lowe and Ronan Curtis being tipped to move up the leagues, it's a chance for the duo to pit their attacking wit against the level of opposition they would be going up against most weeks if promotion is secured.

Likewise, eyes will be on Clarke to handle the step up with the 22-year-old making it look so easy in League One.

It will revealing how Pompey's highly-touted youngsters fare.


Pompey's Defensive Pups

It's a defensive unit with a combined age of just 87.

Or breaking it down, the back four likely to start at Norwich is set to have an average age of just 21.75.

Anton Walkes (21), Jack Whatmough (22), Matt Clarke (22) and Brandon Haunstrup (22) were the quartet given the nod against AFC Wimbledon.

The greatest compliment to them is that when Haunstrup entered the fray to replace Lee Brown at Fleetwood and complete the youthful line-up, their lack of combined years wasn't immediately apparent.

That's because between them they can now call upon a sizable amount of experience, totting up 330 first-team games.

Yet, going up against a side's whose 48 goals in the Championship this term is bettered by just West Brom and Aston Villa is going to prove an exciting but serious test of their defensive mettle.


Happy or unwanted distraction?

It may not be quite the glamour opposition Pompey fans hoped for when the draw was made for the FA Cup third round last month.

But the trip to a side with serious designs of making it to the Premier League still represents an attractive proposition for the Blues and their followers.

Norwich have set the pace in the Championship for much of the campaign and their Carrow Road home is exactly the kind of set-up Pompey should be aspiring to have themselves.

The match is the first of two cup clashes in the space of little over three days, with the Checkatrade Trophy trip to Southend to follow.

But is that a useful chance for Pompey to test themselves against powerful opponents and perhaps shuffle their pack, or an unwanted distraction from the serious business of gaining promotion?

The word from the Blues camp is it is the former, but the answer will only become apparent at the end of the two-game departure from League One action.

No more injuries will be the first hope, while we await to see if the fixtures continue to pile up for Jackett's men.