Pompey boss: Starting places still up for grabs

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KENNY JACKETT is adamant Pompey places are still up for grabs, despite a first glimpse of his favoured XI.

The Blues last night opened up their pre-season friendly campaign with a comfortable 4-1 victory at Cork City.

Pompey boss Kenny Jackett

Pompey boss Kenny Jackett

Jackett’s strong line-up for the opening 45 minutes immediately caught the eye, suggesting he has already identified his favoured first-team selection.

Summer recruits Craig MacGillivray, Ronan Curtis, Lee Brown and Tom Naylor all featured in a first period which yielded a 2-0 half-time lead.

Accompanying them were Matt Clarke, Brett Pitman, Jamal Lowe, Nathan Thompson, Christian Burgess, Danny Rose and Gareth Evans.

Jackett made 11 changes at the break as 22 players were utilised – yet he insists spots are still up for grabs.

Ben Close

Ben Close

He said: ‘With the team line-up you can obviously see the way I am thinking, but it’s early July and we are planning for maybe nine months so you try to get two people for every position,

‘There were actually one or two missing. Ben Close who will be around by Saturday, while Dion Donohue has some blisters we didn’t want to risk.

‘There are one or two guys who aren’t around that will need some games and will make us stronger.

‘A feature last year throughout the winter was we suffered with injuries, but also didn't have enough competition, didn't have enough cover, didn’t have enough experienced players.

‘All of our younger players are a year better off, have more experience, and we have deliberately tried to add a few older lads that are established and can help thicken us up.

‘We’ll see if I keep that line-up during pre-season. We’ll take it week by week, it depends how the players respond.

‘Obviously, it’s about availability – but also building up understanding through pre-season.’

Louis Dennis was the sole summer signing who did not start the first half.

Instead, he was utilised in the second period alongside the likes of Luke McGee, Jack Whatmough, Oli Hawkins and two-goal Conor Chaplin. 

And Jackett expects Close to be back in contention for Saturday’s trip to neighbouring Hawks.

He added: ‘Ben was tight. He’s had some quad and hamstring problems, but it’s just general tightness from Saturday's training.

‘He didn't feel he was able to play against Cork, so we didn’t bring him and instead replaced him with Freddie Reid.’