Will Rooney looks ahead to Pompey’s clash against Blackburn and assesses the main talking points...
A deserved start for Chaplin?
A goal off the bench to send the Fratton faithful into ecstasy.
That’s been the common theme of Conor Chaplin’s Pompey career to date.
And his latest star-studded introduction came at the weekend, with his eye for goal earning the Blues a dramatic victory at MK Dons.
At the death, Chaplin put his body on the line to bravely bundle the ball into the back of the net to send the 6,257 away fans wild.
Nobody has ever questioned the 20-year-old’s goalscoring ability, nor his bursting potential.
Nevertheless, his Pompey career since his first-team debut as a 17-year-old has mainly been restricted to substitute appearances.
He’s struggled to put a run of games together from the outset and showcase his talent week-in, week-out.
After Saturday’s match-winning goal, Chaplin could have thrust himself into Kenny Jackett’s plans for tonight’s visit of Rovers.
The number 10 role is still proving a problem position for the Blues –like it has done for the majority of the season.
Wolves loanee Connor Ronan was substituted for Chaplin at MK Dons, while Kal Naismith was an unused substitute and has just a solitary league goal to his name this term.
With Chaplin’s verve, hunger and new-born confidence on the back of his MK Dons winner, it could earn the Worthing talent a first League One start since Boxing Day.
A tough task – but not impossible
Kenny Jackett has described Pompey’s upcoming run of fixtures as season-defining.
And it’s hard not to disagree with the Blues boss.
His side have four games in the next 11 days, and with the campaign’s end edging ever closer, Pompey are running out of time to gain a spot back in the top six.
Tonight’s clash against Blackburn is the toughest from their upcoming busy schedule.
The Blues’ disappointing record against the current top six has been well-documented this campaign.
It reads zero wins, two draw and seven defeats, collecting just two points from a possible 27.
High-flying Rovers will be confident of promotion back to the Championship this season.
Tony Mowbray’s squad is filled with players of that standard, many of whom have experience of playing in the top tier.
Pompey are the underdogs, as Jackett and the bookmakers’ have pointed out ahead of the clash.
Nevertheless, it doesn’t mean the Ewood Park outfit should be completely feared.
On Saturday, they were forced to come from two goals behind to earn a home draw against lowly Oldham.
Prior to that they were defeated by Plymouth.
After the Blues’ last-minute success at MK Dons, there will be a high level of buoyancy in the Fratton Park camp and they should be relishing the test under the PO4 lights.
And a success over Blackburn would really ignite a spark in Jackett’s side going into the business end of the campaign.
A challenge Thompson will relish
Nathan Thompson is ready to face arguably his biggest Pompey challenge this evening.
Since his summer arrival, the former Swindon captain has been one of the Blues’ standout performers.
He shrugged off an early-season foot problem to make the right-back slot his own and performed consistently throughout.
However, due to Pompey’s injury crisis in the middle of the park, the 27-year-old has been shifted into a central-midfield role.
He’s the experience next to the fledgling Ben Close, tasked with policing the engine room and being the brawn of the pair.
In his three games in the role, Thompson has impressed and looked a natural.
Tonight it will be his job to keep Blackburn talisman and top goalscorer Bradley Dack quiet.
The former Gillingham man was linked to the likes of Championship outfits Aston Villa and Cardiff last month, with the latter reportedly making a £4m bid.
Dack, who scored in the 3-0 reverse at Ewood Park, has the quality and ability to both create and score goals.
Nevertheless, the versatile Chester talent moved to Pompey last summer to fulfil his ambition of playing in the Championship.
Therefore, given the duty of nullifying the threat of Dack will be a battle Thompson is looking forward to.