Hitmen told to seize chance

Ryan Bird, right, is set for a chance to impress tonight. Picture: Joe Pepler
Ryan Bird, right, is set for a chance to impress tonight. Picture: Joe Pepler

Pompey’s hitmen have been challenged: Stake your claim.

The Blues strikers have been tasked with making an impression as they go to Torquay tonight in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy.

Guy Whittingham is likely to use a new-look strike force in the first-round clash with the Gulls.

Top scorer David Connolly starts a three-match ban for his red card against Chesterfield on Saturday.

And Whittingham has indicated he will rest Patrick Agyemang, to give the 32-year-old a break after six consecutive starts.

That means Ryan Bird and Tom Craddock are most likely to be paired together in the first round clash at Plainmoor.

Whittingham has also indicated John Sullivan will continue in goal.

The former Charlton keeper returned to the side on Saturday against Chesterfield.

Sullivan believes the game represents a chance for Pompey’s front men to show what they can do.

He said: ‘Dave is going to be out for three games now.

‘But that gives the others in the squad a chance to stake their claim.

‘Birdy is very hungry.

‘It’s his first professional club and he is learning every day.

‘Tom is a very good player. He’s had a couple of niggles but is over them now.

‘Last week in training he was looking very sharp.

‘He came on in the second-half of Saturday and showed glimpses of what he can do.

‘He’ll score goals for us.

‘There’s also young Ash Harris and good forward-thinking players in Jed (Wallace), Andy (Barcham) and Ricky (Holmes).

‘So the forward options here are good.’

Sullivan is determined to take his chance in goal tonight as his battle with Phil Smith hots up.

Pompey are six games away from Wembley, with Sullivan keen on taking the competition seriously.

He said: ‘I need to be playing all the time to fulfil my potential, which I know I can do. It’s hard for a keeper to come in and out of the side.

‘But hopefully I can get a fair crack of the whip.

‘Maybe it’s a nice distraction to go down there and do well.

‘There is no pressure, so let’s go down there and see if we can get into the next round and get a good draw again.

‘Torquay are no slouches so we’ll have to be well prepared and go there and give it a go.’

‘The Johnstone’s Paint may not be at the top of the list of priorities but you win a couple of games and you aren’t too far from Wembley.

‘I’ve been to the area final with Brighton before.

‘It could be a nice little distraction.

‘This club hasn’t been used to this competition.

‘But some of us may never get the chance to play at Wembley and this could be the only route there.

‘Every game you go into you want to do well, win and perform well.’