Will Rooney looks at three talking points heading into Pompey’s League One clash against Walsall today.
CAN MILAN HAUNT HIS FORMER SIDE?
Pompey’s menacing attacker couldn’t make his return in a more fitting game.
Milan Lalkovic opted to leave Walsall for Fratton Park after rejecting a new contract at the Bescot Stadium last summer.
Despite an underwhelming maiden campaign at the Blues, the former Chelsea product is determined to get his career back on track and once again join the upper echelons of football.
Lalkovic impressed Kenny Jackett in pre-season with his menacing runs and attacking prowess on the left flank.
The winger was set to start against Rochdale on the opening day of the campaign but missed out after suffering ankle ligament damage in training beforehand.
After four games on the sidelines, the 24-year-old will be desperate to make up for lost time and stamp his authority on the team.
Although he is unlikely to start, Lalkovic offers the Blues a cutting-edge option from the bench they lacked in last Saturday’s 3-0 loss at Oxford United.
Jackett wants his attacking troops to be braver in one-on-one situations. Against the U’s a lack of creativity, inadvertently, meant Pompey were unlocked on the counter-attack.
However, battles in the final third are positions where Lalkovic thrives and he will be aiming to haunt his former side.
HAVE THE FRINGE PLAYERS DONE ENOUGH?
The Checkatrade Trophy is a much-maligned competition for the majority of the Fratton faithful.
But Ben Close and Curtis Main, in particular, would have seen Wednesday’s 3-3 draw with Fulham under-21s as a godsend.
The former’s favoured position in Pompey’s engine room is still up for grabs.
Although Adam May has barely put a foot out of line, Close did his best to throw a spanner in the works.
After falling behind his fellow Academy graduate in the centre-midfield pecking order, Close produced a solid performance against Fulham, spreading the ball around well.
Having racked up seven League Two appearances two seasons ago, the 20-year-old will feel he can flourish in the third tier.
Main has stiff competition from the likes of Brett Pitman, Conor Chaplin and Kal Naismith for a role in the final third.
But a clever back heel to set up Jamal Lowe’s first on Wednesday was a sign of the former Doncaster man’s intelligence.
THREE POINTS WILL BE EXPECTED
Pompey are far from hitting the panic button just yet – but victory against Walsall is the minimum result Kenny Jackett’s men can afford.
After impressing in their curtain-raiser victory against Rochdale, momentum has slightly dipped in the Blues’ past three games.
Sandwiched between a Carabao Cup first-round defeat to Cardiff and a draw against Fulham under-21s in the Checkatrade Trophy was the disappointing 3-0 loss at Oxford United in the league.
And with news of Tareiq Holmes-Dennis being ruled out for the campaign, it’s been an eventful few weeks for the Pompey boss.
Walsall will represent a decent challenge for the Blues. They beat Oldham 2-1 last weekend and, despite an opening-day defeat at Bury, the Saddlers missed two penalties.
Jackett has stressed he will know where his side should be aiming by the end of September.
It’s still early days after two League One games, but it’s crucial Pompey’s form does not dip further.