KENNY JACKETT is expected to give Jack Whatmough his first start in almost a year when Pompey play Scunthorpe in the Leasing.com Trophy at Fratton Park.
The central defender has been on the bench for the last two games and Jackett has admitted he has been careful with a player who has suffered several knee injuries in the past.
Whatmough suffered cartilage damage in his left knee in the game against Doncaster Rovers in February last year and, after surgery, he has undergone an extended period of rehabilitation.
The 23-year-old is fit and ready to start after coming through 90 minutes for the reserves recently and the EFL last-eight clash would appear to be the ideal game to return to first-team duty.
“Jack’s returned to the fold in recent weeks and is a very determined individual, who never lets things get him down,” said Jackett, who is expected to rest several players with the FA Cup clash against Barnsley coming up on Saturday.
“I’ve been careful with him after initially targeting a return at Christmas and we just wanted to be a bit careful. But he’s appeared very comfortable in training and it doesn’t look like he’s been playing catch-up. We’re confident he’s ready to go.”
Pompey have back-to-back cup games ahead of the return to League One duty at Lincoln on January 28, but Jackett has no intention of easing off away from the league.
The manager is determined to keep Pompey’s run of form going, and it would be five consecutive wins if they overcome their League Two opponents at Fratton Park.
“If we can keep progressing on all three fronts then that would be great because winning always breeds confidence,” added Jackett, who guided his team to EFL success at Wembley in March last year. “It’s obviously a massive game against Barnsley on Saturday, but right now we’re only concentrating on facing Scunthorpe.
“I’m expecting them to put out a strong team – as everyone will at this stage – because we’re only two steps from Wembley.”