Pompey boss: Checkatrade chance to gauge fringe players

Pompey boss Kenny Jackett Picture: Joe Pepler
Pompey boss Kenny Jackett Picture: Joe Pepler
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Kenny Jackett can recognise the motivation behind Checkatrade Trophy dissent.

But as a manager, tonight presents the prized opportunity to gauge Pompey’s fringe players in competitive action.

The much-maligned Checkatrade Trophy remains in existence, despite woeful attendances across the country during last season’s inaugural format.

The November 2016 visit of Bristol Rovers attracted 1,200 – the lowest at Fratton Park in the Blues’ post-war history.

That consisted of 65 away supporters for the 1-0 Pompey victory.

For the Blues, the competition kicks off tonight with the visit of Fulham under-21s (7.45pm).

So far 500 home tickets have been sold – meanwhile, just three have been bought by Fulham followers.

Jackett, though, has his eyes trained on rotating his squad and assessing their performance.

Ben Close and Jamal Lowe are among those who will start, although out-of-favour Michael Smith will again not be involved in the match-day 18.

And for Pompey’s boss, the focus remains on the field.

He said: ‘I do understand supporters’ opinion on the competition, but we look at it slightly differently.

‘Professionally, it will be good for me to look at different players, so it’s a good one for me.

‘I get an opportunity to look at some fringe players and, as a new manager, that is welcome.

‘We will make some changes and obviously will respect the rules, but with our injuries at present there will not necessarily be wholesale changes.

‘At the moment we are floating around 18 players, with Joe Hancott (Academy defender) making it 19.

‘The three boys out on loan (Widdrington, Bedford and Oxlade-Chamberlain) are not eligible under conditions of the first 28 days of their loan, but that’s okay.

‘With our group we will start some of the substitutes and some of our starting XI will be subs. It will be pretty much the same group, but changes in the starting XI.’

Pompey will once again be without Matt Clarke, Nathan Thompson and Milan Lalkovic, who are not yet ready to return from injury.

Tareiq Holmes-Dennis is out for the season, while Theo Widdrington (Hawks), Jez Bedford and Christian Oxlade-Chamberlain (both Poole) are ineligible through their loans. However, Lowe can feature, despite still serving a three-match ban.