Verdict: Kenny Jackett faces ‘toughest selection headache’ as Portsmouth manager for Tranmere visit
Kenny Jackett faces his ‘toughest selection headache’ as Pompey manager for Saturday’s visit of Tranmere.
That’s the verdict of Pompey writer Jordan Cross, who believes the Blues boss has a welcome problem as he tries to identify his starting XI for the visit of last season's League One play-off winners to Fratton Park.
Following an opening-day League One defeat at Shrewsbury, Jackett – who has made eight summer signings to date – made three changes to his starting line-up for the midweek Carabao Cup match against Birmingham.
With on-loan Rangers midfielder Ross McCrorie suspended and striker John Marquis’ partner going into labour, Ben Close and Ellis Harrison were handed their first starts of the campaign.
And the duo repaid the manager’s faith by scoring the goals in the 3-0 win, with Harrison bagging a brace on his maiden Fratton Park outing.
Andy Cannon, meanwhile, was given the nod over Gareth Evans in an attacking midfield role that saw the January transfer arrival thrive on his Blues comeback appearance.
The trio’s performances will have made Jackett sit up and take notice as he ponders his starting line-up for the visit of Micky Mellon’s side.
And speaking in the latest edition of Pompey Talk, Cross believes the dilemma now facing the Blues manager in terms of team selection and even formation is one he had yet faced at Fratton Park since replacing Paul Cook in the summer of 2017.
This is by far the best squad put together by Jackett as he goes into his third season as Pompey boss.
Cross said: 'I think it’s no exaggeration to say that this is the toughest selection headache Kenny Jackett has faced as Pompey manager.
'I genuinely do believe that given the fact that Ross McCrorie has looked so good in pre-season.
'He got a red card at the weekend (against Shrewsbury) but looks like he's come here to play.
'Ben Close and Andy Cannon came in (against Birmingham in the Carabao Cup) and really seized the opportunity.
'I gave Ben Close a higher mark than Cannon (in my match ratings) but could have easily given him an eight, and easily given Marcus Harness an eight as well.
‘Gareth Evans missed out as part of that selection, so there's a number of issues in that area of the pitch – and that's not even speaking about Ellis Harrison and John Marquis up front.
'It was a really exciting debut (for Harrison against Birmingham) and I make no apologies in making the references in comparing Harrison with a Pompey hero in Benjani, but the work-rate is there.
But it took Benjani longer to get his first goal than Ellis Harrison.
'So it's a tough one for Kenny there given that John Marquis missed the Birmingham game because of the birth of his child.
‘But he's here to play and he’s got an incredible record of starting games over the past few seasons.
'It's one he's very proud of, he knows his stats, and he'll be gunning to come back in at the weekend.’