Sonny Bradley welcomed the challenge for his starting place and promised: I’ll show I want it.
The central defender admitted he found being dropped from the side by boss Richie Barker in recent weeks hard to take.
But the 22-year-old delivered a fine performance on his return to first-team action at Exeter on Saturday.
Bradley replaced the injured Joe Devera at the end of the first half and put in a composed, no-nonsense display.
Barker labelled the substitute’s effort the best 45-minute performance he had seen from the defender since he became manager in December.
The trip to St James Park proved a controversial day for Bradley after a post-match flashpoint with a fan.
But he is putting all of that behind him to focus on keeping his place in the starting XI.
Bradley knows competition is fierce in the central defensive area – especially following the recent acquisition of Ben Chorley from Stevenage.
But the former Hull City man is determined to show his desire to stay in the team
‘I’ve not been playing and, of course, I’m not happy about it – but that’s natural,’ admitted Bradley.
‘We’ve got four centre-halves for two spaces and you can put Jack Whatmough in the situation.
‘So we’re all showing how much we want it.
‘When we get Adam Webster back from his loan spell at Aldershot, we could have five or six centre-halves.
‘It is good to have that. It makes you want it more. You have to train harder and be better.
‘It’s better for us all.’
Bradley has been a virtual ever-present in the Blues’ starting line-up this season, missing only the league trip to Torquay through suspension, before being replaced by Chorley against Wycombe at Adams Park.
With Devera in the form of his Pompey career, the summer signing has missed out on starting the past three Pompey games.
But with Devera fighting for fitness and Bradley excelling against the Grecians, there is every chance he will start against AFC Wimbledon on Saturday.
The defender admitted being out the side has fuelled his desire to nail down his place in the side.
He said: ‘Nobody likes to get dropped, but it’s important to stay focused and get on with your job.
‘It’s hard, but you have to get on and train as hard as possible.
‘If someone gets injured you have to be ready to get on and get into it.
‘It’s not been nice to be sat out, but hopefully I can stay back in for a bit.
‘It’s frustrating watching because you can see things and you want to make a difference, but you can’t from the bench.
‘I’m sure others feel the same. It’s healthy to feel like that.’