Bury v Pompey: Pre-match talking points

Conor Chaplin. Picture: Joe Pepler
Conor Chaplin. Picture: Joe Pepler
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Will Rooney previews Pompey’s trip to Bury and picks out the talking points...

A chance for Chaplin?

For all of the talent and prowess Kal Naismith possesses, the Scot hasn’t delivered for the most part this season.

The League Two title hero, by his own standards, has had an underwhelming campaign.

Naismith has netted just twice in the league and registered a solitary assist.

Meanwhile, on the opposite flank, Jamal Lowe’s hurtling progression continues and has netted eight times and created a further 10 goals in all competitions.

In last Saturday’s 1-0 defeat to Charlton, the nadir of Naismith’s performance was his long-range effort in the second half which was closer to the corner flag than the goal.

With two games remaining, Kenny Jackett may look at different options as he tries to finish the season with impetus.

Matty Kennedy has endured a frustrating time with a niggling ankle injury for the majority of 2018.

After making a positive start of his Pompey career, it’s looking more and more unlikely Jackett won’t take up the option of signing the former Everton winger on a permanent basis.

Instead, the boss may look at the players who are more likely to be at Fratton Park next term.

One of those is Conor Chaplin, who is desperate to impress.

It’s been another frustrating campaign for the home-grown talent after it started with such promise upon Jackett’s arrival.

Having been labelled an impact player for most his career, he’s failed to make the bench in the Blues’ matchday squad at Walsall and Rochdale.

Yet the Pompey boss believes he’s capable of playing in a left-wing role and could be handed an opportunity.

It’s not his natural position, but Chaplin would relish minutes on the pitch and could find himself a niche.

Midfield conundrum remains

Kenny Jackett is still trying to put an end to Pompey’s central midfield problems.

Since the injury to Anton Walkes, the Blues boss hasn’t been able to find balance his engine room.

It was Dion Donohue given the nod against Charlton but the Welshman failed to take his chance in his favoured position.

He was the third candidate to be handed an opportunity centrally since Walkes’ injury at Rochdale.

Connor Ronan and Stuart O’Keefe have both been handed starts at Bradford and Plymouth respectfully.

Out of them, it would be O’Keefe who has overall looked the most convincing.

Although he sat slightly too deep at Plymouth in the second period, it’s easy to forget he had the best part of four months on the sidelines and no reserve games to regain match fitness.

When he came on against the Addicks, he added energy and bite, likewise at Bradford.

His fitness levels will be improving every day and his presence could be exactly what Jackett is after.

Old partnership to come to the fore

It was the partnership that played an instrumental part in Pompey winning League Two last season.

In the fourth tier, there wasn’t a better centre-back pairing than Christian Burgess and Matt Clarke.

In League One at times this term, they’ve also been right up there with the best.

However, a dip in form resulted in Burgess being forced to go through eight matches on the bench.

But the popular defender has been given an opportunity to impress his boss in the final two games.

A groin problem means Jack Whatmough’s season is over.

The academy product was replaced by Burgess at half-time against Charlton, and was one of the few players could hold his head up high at the end.

He was composed on the ball, won plenty of aerial duels and made a brilliant challenge to deny Nicky Ajose a second.

Burgess will be looking to build on that effort and help Pompey to a first clean sheet in four games.