Portsmouth boss makes early call on on-loan Gillingham defender amid latest injury blow

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Haji Mnoga won’t be recalled early from his Gillingham loan move to help fill the void left by Joe Rafferty’s injury.

Danny Cowley has ruled out the possibility of the young defender being recalled from his season-long Priestfield loan in January to ease the burden on his right-back options.

However, the Pompey boss revealed a conversation needs to be had with Gills counterpart Neil Harris closer to the transfer window as Mnoga struggles for game time with the League Two side.

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At that stage, the Blues could explore a different loan arrangement for the academy product, who is in need of match minutes to aid his development.

Since joining Gillingham on loan on September 1, the 20-year-old has managed just 76 minutes of football over four appearances.

He was left out Harris’ latest match-day squad as the Gills lost 1-0 at Doncaster Rovers last weekend.

And with Pompey set to be without Rafferty for a further three months following news that he now needs surgery on a groin injury – just weeks after going under the knife for a stomach muscle complaint – it raised the prospect of a return to Fratton Park for the Tanzania international.

That’s not something Cowley is exploring, however,

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Pompey youngster Haji Mnoga is currently on loan at League Two GillinghamPompey youngster Haji Mnoga is currently on loan at League Two Gillingham
Pompey youngster Haji Mnoga is currently on loan at League Two Gillingham

With Zak Swanson, Kieron Freeman and Connor Ogilvie all capable of deputising for Rafferty, the manager sees no need to bring Mnoga back for that sole purpose.

Instead, an early recall might be enforced so that the defender can get the opportunity to go elsewhere in search of regular football.

‘Haji needs to go and play,’ said Cowley, when asked if Mnoga was a solution to Rafferty’s long-term absence.

‘That’s the reason why he went out on this loan.

‘He’s gone out to League Two and he’s not playing, so he needs to go out and play.

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‘I think, between Neil and I, we’ll speak closer to January and make the right decision for the two football clubs and Haji.’

Cowley and Harris speak regularly about Mnoga.

The two spoke this week after the on-loan player’s omission at Keapmoat.

And while Cowley insisted the youngster is showing a good attitude during a difficult spell, the message is clear – Mnoga needs to earn the right to earn a recall.

The Pompey manager added: ‘I spoke to Neil Harris on Wednesday. We’re in regular contact.

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‘Unfortunately for Haji he had a really difficult start, having got sent off 10 minutes into his debut, and then not performing as well as he would have liked the next game. As a consequence, he’s lost that opportunity.

‘He’s now a young player waiting on the next one.

‘He’s come on and affected games from the bench but hasn’t had the game time he would have liked.

‘But he has to earn that game time. That’s just where it is. Like any young player, he has to earn it.

‘It’s his responsibility to do that, so he has to keep fighting. He can’t be the victim in this moment, he’s got to keep fighting and keep trying to earn the right, because this is his career.

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‘Like all young players, you only get so many opportunities, so when they come you have to make sure you are prepared and ready to take them.

‘Having spoken to Neil, his attitude and work ethic in training has been excellent.

‘He’s been training consistently well. He’s just waiting on that next opportunity.’