Comment: Pompey line-up earmarked – but ‘second XI’ will put up a fight

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It may have only been a pre-season friendly, with the final result not meaning anything crucial.

It might have been against a Cork City side who are in the middle of trying to retain their League of Ireland title and have a Champions League first-round qualifier approaching. 

Pompey's Tom Naylor

Pompey's Tom Naylor

Yet Pompey’s first 90 minutes of the summer was impressive and it highlighted how tough competition for places will be this campaign. 

The Blues delivered a 4-1 victory over the Rebel Army in comfortable fashion last night.

With Kenny Jackett rolling out two teams in both halves at Turner’s Cross, it seems the majority of those who featured before the break have been earmarked for the Blues’ League One curtain-raiser against Luton on August 4.

But they will be pushed all the way for their starting berths throughout the summer.

In the first period, new signing Tom Naylor strutted round the middle of the park like the central midfielder Pompey missed too dearly last season.

Ronan Curtis and Lee Brown were a constant threat down the left, with the new signings dovetailing with the likes of Brett Pitman, Gareth Evans and Jamal Lowe seamlessly. 

No doubt they were the stronger of the two XIs but the one that featured in the second period also flexed their muscle.

The No9 role is undoubtedly the toughest to snatch away in Jackett’s side, given Pitman netted 25 times in the league last season. But both Oli Hawkins and Conor Chaplin displayed they’re out to push their captain all of the way.

The latter was his usual self, buzzing around the final third throughout the second half. His two goals were contrasting but equally as impressive.

Hawkins, meanwhile, physically dominated Cork’s rearguard and looks like he’ll benefit from a full pre-season.

Christian Burgess started alongside Matt Clarke, which would suggest they’re Jackett’s two leading centre-backs in the meantime.

However, Gosport’s Jack Whatmough rarely put a foot wrong and will be confident he can again dislodge Burgess like last campaign.

And the first victory over the summer was without Ben Close or Dion Donohue’s involvement, who were both sidelined through injuries and were regulars last term.

It was a straightforward success over Cork, but early indications suggest there’s going to be an intriguing battle over the summer for places .   

                           - WILL ROONEY