What loanees’ lack of game time says about Portsmouth’s squad 

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When Pompey line up to face Gillingham, it’s unlikely there’ll be any changes to the side that delivered a 1-0 victory over Coventry.

A fair assumption after the midweek win at the Ricoh Arena handed the Blues a three-point advantage at the top of the League One table.

Pompey loanees David Wheeler, left, and Joe Mason. Picture: Robin Jones

Pompey loanees David Wheeler, left, and Joe Mason. Picture: Robin Jones

The victory offered up further proof Kenny Jackett’s side possess sure-fire promotion credentials.

Of course, a lot of football has to be played between now and the end of the season.

But if the Blues continue at the rate they’re currently going, Championship football will be heading back to PO4.

And if that is achieved, there is one significant factor that bodes well for the club.

For the majority of this season to date, Jackett has generally kept faith with the same starting XI.

Oli Hawkins and Brett Pitman have battled it out for the sole striking role and will continue to do so.

But only injuries to the likes of Jack Whatmough and Nathan Thompson have forced the manager to reshuffle his pack.

That’s meant a lack of game time for many of his first-team squad and, in particular, the four loanees brought in to bolster the playing ranks.

David Wheeler, Joe Mason, Ben Thompson and Andre Green were all acquired from Championship clubs to strengthen the quality and competition on offer to Jackett.

There’s no doubt they do exactly that.

But the manager’s go-to players so far this season have been those on permanent Fratton Park deals.

Indeed, every one of the starting XI in the win at Coventry – and the three games prior – were players fully on the Blues’ payroll.

That’s left Wheeler, Mason and Thompson confined to the bench.

And if Green was fit, it would probably have been a full house.

The quartet are highly-rated. Most managers in the division would in all probability have them in their starting XI, never mind on the bench.

But because of the quality Jackett has signed on a permanent contracts, they’ve had to settle for being bit-part players.

Thompson has by far had the most game time compared to the other three loanees

The Millwall ace’s debut performance in the 4-1 victory over Oxford left Pompey fans purring, while he delivered a similar swashbuckling effort in the 3-0 win over Plymouth.

However, Thompson has also been withdrawn at half-time on two occasions for the ever-improving Ben Close.

He has now fallen behind the Pompey academy graduate in the central-midfield pecking order, having failed to start the past four matches. 

When Wheeler arrived from QPR, there was plenty of excitement.

His goal for Exeter at Fratton Park during the 2016-17 League Two title-winning season was still vivid.

That year, he scored 20 times in 45 appearances for the Grecians, earning him a move to QPR.

But so far Wheeler has been limited to just 67 league minutes at the Blues.

Another wide man on the periphery is Green.

The 20-year-old featured in the Checkatrade Trophy victory over Gillingham, before being substituted at half-time for Wheeler in the 1-1 League One draw with Shrewsbury

Granted, the Aston Villa loanee is currently recovering from a knee operation. 

But the form of  Ronan Curtis and Jamal Lowe’s means he has his work cut out on his return. 

The pair have plundered 12 goals and nine assists between them and are proving a potent attacking threat. 

Mason has also had to bide his time and awaits a maiden start.

Jackett regards the No 10 role as the Wolves loanee's best position.

Yet Gareth Evans has firmly made that berth his own. 

When players arrive at a club on loan, they’re more often than not an upgrade on those already there.

This year’s new temporary additions are no different, given the level they’re arrived from

They will all have their part to play in Pompey’s promotion push.

But, for the time being, they’ll have to settle for cameo appearances.

And that can only bode well for the Blues’ future.

A settled team you can call your own provides much more comfort than one patched together with a limited shelf-life, irrespective of league standings.

And if Pompey do return to the Championship next season, Jackett will have a greater and true understanding of where his team is at – rather than a false diagnosis accentuated by make-shift measures.