Pompey fringe players must grasp chance in Checkatrade Trophy
It is a competition that is much maligned by the majority of Pompey fans.
But for some of the Fratton Park first-team, the Checkatrade Trophy clash with Fulham under-21s tonight offers an opportunity to impress and force Kenny Jackett to sit up and take note.
The Blues boss has used the same core of players during the majority of pre-season and in the first two matches of League One.
Granted, the injuries of Matt Clarke and Tareiq Holmes-Dennis opened up windows for Jack Whatmough and Brandon Haunstrup.
However, Jackett used just two substitutes in Saturday’s 3-0 defeat at Oxford United with Conor Chaplin and Carl Baker replacing Kal Naismith and Drew Talbot respectively.
The latter was a forgotten man in P04 under former boss Paul Cook, but he has snatched his chance since his surprise inclusion in the League One curtain-raiser against Rochdale.
And his Pompey team-mates in a similar position need to follow in Talbot’s footsteps.
They must seize their opportunity and give Jackett something to ponder for future League One encounters.
Fulham under-21s should represent a decent challenge for the Blues.
The Cottagers’ Academy has produced players like £25m Spurs-wanted man Ryan Sessegnon and Celtic’s Moussa Dembélé (albeit after arriving from Paris Saint-Germain) in recent years and there will be plenty of talent among the west London outfit’s ranks.
Players such as Ben Close, Curtis Main and Nicke Kabamba are all desperate to stamp their authority on Jackett’s side and a strong performance is crucial.
The former made seven League Two appearances during the 2015-16 campaign before spending the majority of last season on loan at National League outfit Eastleigh.
Since his Pompey return, Close has been leapfrogged in the centre-midfield pecking order by fellow Academy product Adam May while wideman Carl Baker has also operated in the role.
Meanwhile, Main looks set for his first Blues appearance since October 22 last year after coming off the bench in a 2-1 home defeat to Notts County.
The attacker was plagued with injury last term and then was unable to force a way into Cook’s side when he did return.
However, Main scored five goals from 14 appearances during his maiden Fratton Park season and he has unfinished business.
First-team opportunities have been seldom for Nicke Kabamba since his January arrival.
The 24-year-old witnessed ex-Hampton & Richmond team-mate Jamal Lowe bask in promotion glory at Notts County last season while Kabamba sat on the sidelines.
The Londoner faces tough competition from Conor Chaplin, Kal Naismith and Brett Pitman leading Jackett’s frontline but, given Kabamba’s goalscoring record in non-league, he’ll be confident he can fire on all cylinders.
Others like Tom Davies and Alex Bass are also in similar positions. Davies was, after all, pipped to a place alongside Christian Burgess by Whatmough in the Blues’ centre of defence.
Milan Lalkovic, Nathan Thompson, Clarke and Lowe are all nearing their returns, which will make competition for places in League One even more fierce.
It is vital the players who are given the nod against Fulham clasp the opportunity – they might not get a similar chance for some time.