Matt Clarke returns as boss overhauls Pompey side
Matt Clarke will tonight make his Pompey comeback in the much-maligned Checkatrade Trophy.
And he won’t be alone in being handed a recall, with widespread changes expected for the trip to Yeovil Town.
A groin injury has confined Clarke to the sidelines since victory over Wycombe on April 26.
The persistent problem kept him out the play-off semi-final against Plymouth and the Blues’ entire pre-season programme.
However, he will partner Adam Barton in defence at Huish Park this evening (7.45pm).
Liam O’Brien, Gareth Evans, Kyle Bennett, Kal Naismith and Amine Linganzi are also set to line-up against the Glovers.
Paul Cook’s selection will see Pompey slapped with a £5,000 fine from the Football League as it exceeds the permitted six changes.
Regardless, the Blues will field an undeniably strong side.
Cook said: ‘Matt Clarke will play. It’s his first game since getting injured.
‘He has a long way to go before he is first-team competitive, so he will probably play for 55, 60 or 70 minutes.
‘However long he is on the pitch, it’s just nice for the kid to get his boots on and play.
‘He has been out for a long time with that injury.
‘We will have a very strong team and are going to make as many changes as we think is right, there is a balance to it.
‘I feel with the quality in the squad we can get through the group. If we get through the group, the gate money and everything else will pay the fines.
‘We are not putting weaker teams out here, Pompey fans going to Yeovil must realise we are travelling with great heart that we are going to win the game.
‘We are not travelling to make the numbers up.
‘My team is right for my club and my club’s priority this year is the league.
‘We will have lads staying behind to train, resting from the match and preparing for Crawley on Saturday.
‘We have other players like Gareth Evans getting the minutes they need.
‘I am going to do what I think is right for Portsmouth Football Club.’
O’Brien will make his Pompey debut, otherwise the side will take on a similar look to the one which faced Coventry in the EFL Cup.
On that occasion Cook made 11 changes – with his team going on to take their League One opposition into extra-time before slipping to defeat.
And with first-team spots up for grabs, Pompey’s boss is keen to see others in action.
He added: ‘We’ve had a great week but not played particularly well and that is the reality we are at.
‘So the competition for places at our club is there for all to see.
‘We made two changes Saturday after winning 2-0 to Colchester. The likelihood is we may make changes again to Saturday’s team.’