Pike: We can give Pompey useful test

Former Pompey scholar TJ Cuthbertson, fourth left, is now at Gosport Borough  Picture: Malcolm Wells
Former Pompey scholar TJ Cuthbertson, fourth left, is now at Gosport Borough Picture: Malcolm Wells
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Alex Pike believes Pompey can expect a useful test from his Gosport Borough team in tomorrow’s pre-season clash (3pm).

Paul Cook is expected to split his squad evenly for the game at Bognor tonight and the trip to Privett Park tomorrow as he visits the club’s non-league neighbours.

But Pike insists the standard of opposition now represents a progressive step towards the new League Two season, rather than simply ticking a box of playing the local clubs.

The Borough boss said: ‘Paul played two sides at Havant last week so I would imagine he will send one to Bognor and a different team to us.

‘He did ring me and told me that’s what he was going to do.

‘So whatever happens, it will be a strong team coming to Privett Park.

‘I had a good relationship when Harry Redknapp was there because we knew each other when we were based in Bournemouth.

‘He brought that fantastic team after they played in the Community Shield and we had about 4,000 there.

‘I can also understand why that relationship broke down but it’s been rebuilt in recent years. We were in the Wessex League at the time so there was a huge gap between the clubs.

‘Now us and Havant are only two divisions below so hopefully it gives Pompey some real benefit to play against us. It is worthwhile opposition for them to play to get them ready for the new season.’

Pike’s side narrowly missed out on the Conference South play-offs last term but he believes his squad is now stronger, even with the loss of striker Matt Paterson to the Hawks.

‘To finish sixth was quite incredible last season,’ said Pike.

‘One extra win would have got us into the play-offs.

‘We’ve lost Pato and I didn’t want to lose him, but that door opens up for someone else.

‘I don’t think it will affect us. All-round, I think we are stronger.

‘Last season, when I had to make changes, I knew I was weakening the side. Now I think we can maintain those levels and we have more strength in depth.’

One summer recruit has already impressed for Borough in the shape of attacking right-back TJ Cuthbertson, who arrived from Sholing.

He also has his connections to Pompey, having been one of eight new Academy scholars in 2005.

Of that batch, only Jack Compton went on to play for the first team and that was after leaving and then returning to the club several years later.

But Cuthbertson – who has since been converted from a striker to a full-back – gives Borough a new dimension.

Pike said: ‘He has done very well in the past three games and we feel lucky that we have picked him up.

‘He was on the radar with my Wessex League connections.

‘Then we played Sholing in the Hampshire Senior Cup final and I made him my first summer target.

‘He is ideal for how we want to play. There are one or two areas where he has got to improve but he catches the eye and puts in some great crosses.’