Title-chasing Pompey reserves go head-to-head with leaders

Conor Chaplin. Picture: Paul Jacobs (150465-42)
Conor Chaplin. Picture: Paul Jacobs (150465-42)

Pompey’s reserves have the opportunity to close the gap on leaders Luton Town when the two lock horns today.

Paul Hardyman’s men visit Kenilworth Road (1pm) in the battle between the top two in the Final Third Development League’s south division.

As it stands, the Blues lie seven points adrift of Luton, although have two games in hand.

However, they head into the fixture full of confidence, having despatched Gillingham (6-1), Leyton Orient (3-1) and Cheltenham (8-2) in their last three matches.

The latter was a cup game, with a youthful Pompey booking their place into the semi-finals of the Final Third Development League Cup.

Now Hardyman’s side must triumph over the Hatters on their home turf to have any chance of overhauling them at the summit.

The reserves have lost once in nine league matches during the maiden campaign since the reinstatement of the format.

They are presently one point clear of third-placed AFC Wimbledon – boasting a far superior goal difference, despite having played two games fewer.

Yet Luton, who have tasted defeat twice, are comfortably leading the table and nothing less than a win will do for the Blues today.

Pompey’s side will once again include Conor Chaplin, who netted a hat-trick in last Thursday’s romp over Cheltenham at Furze Lane.

He has netted seven times in 10 matches for the second string, adding to his 24 goals for the Academy so far this season.

Hardyman will once again replicate the first-team by playing the 3-5-2 system, with Johnny Ertl, Adam Webster and Brandon Haunstrup acting as the three central defenders.

The wing-back roles will be taken by Calvin Davies and Bradley Tarbuck, with the latter impressing in the position during a loan spell at Dorchester which earned him their February player of the month.

Forgotten man Nicky Shorey, who skippered the Blues in their 8-2 victory over Cheltenham, will serve in a central-midfield role alongside Ben Close.

Paul McCallum and Craig Westcarr complete the starting XI for Hardyman.

Nigel Atangana, Dan Butler and Josh Passley are not under consideration as they remain in Portsmouth to train with Andy Awford’s first-team head of the trip to Carlisle.

Pompey Reserves: Cornell, Davies, Ertl, Webster, Haunstrup, Tarbuck, Close, Shorey, Chaplin, Westcarr, McCallum. Subs: Bass, Granger, May, Rwakarambwe, Joseph-Buadi