TOM NAYLOR is convinced that the strength in depth of the Portsmouth squad will be key to their hopes of promotion, as the side face their third game in less than seven days on Friday night.
Manager Kenny Jackett made five changes to his starting XI for the win over MK Dons on Tuesday, and he is expected again to rejig the team for the visit of Rochdale.
While many fans still lament the loss of key players Matt Clarke and Jamal Lowe last summer, the Pompey captain is focused on the here and now, believing they have the quality in the squad to compete all the way through to May.
“There’s depth in the squad and that’s something we didn’t necessarily have last season, when we couldn’t really change things,” said Naylor, who is one of only two players to reach 30 league appearances this season – Christian Burgess is the other.
“But you saw on Tuesday night that we made five changes and the guys who all came in were brilliant.
“We’ll have to see what the gaffer decides to do against Rochdale, but we know there’s real quality here.”
Jackett believes the side ‘lacked energy’ in the defeat at Fleetwood last Saturday and needed freshening up, with the likes of Steve Seddon and Cameron McGeehan sitting out the win over MK Dons.
And while the players know there is the squad strength to make wholesale changes when required, they are aware that any dip in form could see them out of the starting XI.
“I’m confident that everyone’s ready to face Rochdale and whoever’s selected is going to be able to give it a good go,” said Jackett.
“You always need to win your next game – whoever you are and wherever you are in the league table. With 12 games in six weeks – and a performance at Fleetwood that lacked energy – I did feel we needed to change things (for MK Dons).
“But I’m confident that the people coming in are both good enough and aware of what’s required of them. It’s important that remains seamless because going through a period like we’ve got, the team’s not going to stay the same.
“But with our league position and the number of matches to go, we know it’s going to need a sprint finish.
“The top of the table is very close and we’re one of the sides battling for promotion – we want to make the most of the situation we’ve got ourselves into.
“There won’t be a period of relaxation if we win, though, because we’ll be in over the weekend preparing for another big game on Monday.”
A win over fifth-bottom Rochdale would lift Pompey up to third spot for at least 20 hours, with preparations then beginning for the televised FA Cup fifth round clash against Arsenal on Monday night.