Youngsters eye their first-team chance with squad shortages

Michael Appleton
Michael Appleton
Pompey captain Brett Pitman

Revealed: Pompey's record with and without Pitman

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Michael Appleton has placed the youngsters on standby after seeing illness and injury rip through the first-team squad.

Dave Kitson and Ricardo Rocha have been feeling under the weather this week, while Joel Ward (toe), Jason Pearce (buttock), Tal Ben Haim (hip), Aaron Mokoena (hamstring) and Luke Varney (knee) have all missed training with injury.

That has left Appleton’s resources at breaking point and he admits the substitutes’ bench could be packed with youngsters tomorrow.

Appleton said: ‘The kids are on standby. They always are.

‘We will fill the bench because we’ve got the kids available. So people like Sam Magri may get an opportunity to be on the bench.

‘I will draft some of the kids in if needed.

‘I’m not going to be one of those to make a statement and not have a full bench as people have done in the past.

‘It’s an opportunity for one of the young boys if and when we need them.

‘Kits and Ricardo have been ill. Joel has picked up a toe injury which has been a little bit sore, so he’s had an injection.

‘Jason has a bit of a problem with glutes, so we’ve kept him off it and hope he will be okay.

‘Tal had a problem with a hip flexor injury going into Peterborough, so he’s been off this week, and we hope he’ll be okay.

‘Aaron’s another one who’s coming on okay with his hamstring but, due to the weather, hasn’t been able to get on the pitch.

‘Hopefully we can patch them up, get them full of paracetamol and whatever they need to get on the field.’

Meanwhile, Varney’s lengthy absence has been extended even further after his visit to a knee specialist last week saw him ordered to take a complete rest for a week.

Appleton added: ‘Luke has been to see the specialist, who advised him to take the week off and give himself a rest and do nothing with it.

‘They expect him, hopefully fingers crossed, to be ready to train in 10 days’ time or so.

‘But there’s at least seven bodies who have been struggling with sickness and injuries this week.

‘When you have a squad of 17 that doesn’t help much.’