Players will relish challenge of division's high-flyers, says boss

KENNY JACKETT has insisted his players are eager to test themselves against the best teams in League One as Portsmouth go into a run of games that will be crucial to the success of their season.

Pompey start with a home league game against Rotherham on Tuesday night before Peterborough head to the south coast on December 7. They also face Fratton Park clashes next month against Ipswich Town and Wycombe Wanderers – all four opponents likely to be in the promotion mix at the end of the campaign.

Jackett’s side have started to turn their season around with a run of 11 points from the last 15, but the next month will be a real test of their promotion credentials.

“There are a few games coming up against sides currently sitting above us in the table, but they’re tests we’re looking forward to,” said Jackett, who has no fresh injury concerns for the visit of Rotherham.

“It’s a big opportunity for us and we want to be going into these games on the front foot and full of confidence.

“We need to make that home advantage count wherever possible, and do whatever we can to bring our fans into play. We’re looking to close the gap on the play-offs with some continued good form to put ourselves in a strong position going into the new year.”

Oli Hawkins is likely to continue in central defence after impressing in Saturday’s 3-0 win at Rochdale, and with players returning from injury, Pompey are giving Jackett the sort of selection headaches he craves.

Sean Raggett should be fit for Saturday’s FA Cup clash with Altrincham and Jack Whatmough is also approaching a return to first-team action after nine months out with a knee injury.

The Millers come into the game on the back of three straight league wins, but victory for Pompey will put them three points behind Rotherham with a game in hand.

Jackett added: “Rotherham look strong and are sitting fourth in the league at the moment. They have good options throughout their squad.

“You look at the players that are key for them and, as a manager, are always reviewing the opposition. We’ll have to work hard – as we always do – and show plenty of endeavour and quality for our fantastic fans.”