Whatmough eyes first-team start after 90-minute run out

A DELIGHTED Jack Whatmough retains “full belief” in his own ability after coming through his first 90 minutes in almost a year.

The central defender’s last first-team start was in a 1-1 draw against Doncaster at Fratton Park in February 2019 – the 23-year-old limping off with a serious knee injury after just half an hour.

To many Pompey fans, Whatmough’s return to central defence could be key to ensuring a successful promotion push from now until the end of the season.

That possibility moved a step closer this week when Whatmough played the full game in the reserves’ 1-1 draw against Plymouth’s second string. And for Gosport-born Whatmough, who has suffered several knee injuries since making his debut for Portsmouth in 2013, getting through the game in wet and windy conditions has been a real boost to his confidence.

“I played in an in-house game a couple of weeks ago, but that was just an hour against our under-16 side,” said Whatmough, who was only 17 when he made his Pompey debut in a League Two game against Southend. “I’m not sure if I got a lot out of that, so to have a proper match back – and to get 90 minutes – feels good.

“I felt alright. I did get a little bit leggy late on, but then you get a second wind and feel fine again after that. It was probably up there with the worst conditions I’ve played in, but that just adds to it – if I can get through a game like that then I feel confident if getting through others.”

Portsmouth have struggled to find a successful double act at the heart of their defence this season since the departure of Matt Clarke in the summer, with Christian Burgess and Sean Raggett the current pairing in defence.

Paul Downing has struggled to make an impact since his summer move from Blackburn, so the return of Whatmough will be a welcome boost for manager Kenny Jackett.

“It’s another step ticked off for me that I needed and hopefully I can start getting in contention for the first team again,” added Whatmough, who was on the bench for the 2-1 win against AFC Wimbledon last weekend.

“That’s something I’m really looking forward to, but to play 90 minutes in my first game back after 11 months out is a credit to the physios for the work they’ve done.

“I’ve got full belief in myself after the work I’ve done. There was a great surgery and rehab, and we’ve made all the right steps.”