ANDY AWFORD watched Pompey round off their pre-season campaign and promised: Now it’s time to get cracking.
The Blues boss admitted he and his men are champing at the bit to get the season started after their final warm-up game against Charlton.
The Championship side picked up a 2-1 win at Fratton Park on Saturday in what proved a decent test for Awford’s men.
Awford knew the Addicks would provide an examination of his side’s credentials – and he wasn’t disappointed.
But he admitted he is glad the fine-tuning is out of the way – and the serious business against Exeter finally starts in League Two on Saturday.
Awford said: ‘It’s about being ready to beat Exeter on Saturday. I think we are ready to do that.
‘We’ve had a good pre-season. It’s been a good, solid pre-season. Now I’m looking forward to it starting.
‘I think in the second half it had a pre-season feel about it.
‘You do get those games. I remember watching Rayo Vallecano here last season and it was the same.
‘You can sense it: We all want to go now. We want to get cracking.
‘I’m sure there will be a bit more urgency about us at Exeter.’
Awford knows Pompey face a frenetic opening to the campaign with midweek games arriving in the opening fortnight.
A Capital One Cup success against Peterborough would add to that schedule, with the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy to also consider.
That contributed to Awford using all of his options throughout pre-season and playing few men in consecutive outings.
He said: ‘This is for the season. Everyone is on about Exeter but there are 45 games after that as well.
‘It’s going to be Saturday-Tuesday-Saturday after that. It’s a busy start. Hectic.
‘If you go through in the JPT you get extra games there, too. It can be real gruelling August and September, so I haven’t wanted to flog the players to death.
‘We need to make sure we haven’t got half a squad by the end of August.’
When assessing the pre-season programme, Awford explained he has been pleased overall with what he has seen from his players.
He feels the warm-up games have offered the kind of tests his players needed.
Despite defeats in the past two fixtures, there has been plenty to be encouraged about against Championship opposition.
That couldn’t be said of the 3-0 defeat against Ebbsfleet, however – but Awford felt that gave his players a timely kick up the backside.
He said: ‘We had a blip against Ebbsfleet which, in hindsight, did us the world of good.
‘I think, since then, we’ve seen a more compact team with all the different players I’ve used.
‘I haven’t, in the main, used players in consecutive games.
‘I’ve been chopping and changing and giving everyone an opportunity.
‘Both games, the Bournemouth one and Charlton, we are up against Championship players. It will stand us in good stead.
‘I’m learning about the players all the time, in every single training session and game.
‘I’m learning about the players and team, what we want and what we don’t want. Definitely.’