Appleton contemplating midfield changes as he plots Carlisle response

Conor Clifford, second right, is pushing for a start. Picture: Robin Jones

Conor Clifford, second right, is pushing for a start. Picture: Robin Jones

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Michael Appleton is weighing up freshening his midfield for the visit of Oldham.

The Blues boss was deeply disappointed with his team’s poor performance at Carlisle which ended in a 4-2 defeat last weekend.

He is expected to have new pair Johnny Ertl and Darel Russell available for Saturday’s Fratton Park fixture.

Primarily central midfielders, they could come into the equation with Lee Williamson still struggling to return from a hamstring problem.

Conor Clifford has also pushed his claims following his goal-scoring entrance at Brunton Park.

The 20-year-old appeared as a second-half substitute in the 4-2 loss.

In addition, Clifford netted during a run out for the development group in a behind-closed-doors fixture with Swindon on Tuesday afternoon.

Ashley Harris also featured in the 3-1 success for Guy Whittingham’s men, with Dan Thompson scoring the other two goals.

It adds up to a few more options for Appleton, regardless of doubts over Kieran Djilali due to a back problem.

And Pompey’s manager has admitted he is contemplating some changes.

He said: ‘There has a lot been said about Liam (Walker) but I like to think we have kept hopes about him in check a bit.

‘He’s a talented midfielder, though.

‘Conor has been a bit short in match fitness – that’s why I haven’t taken a chance with him yet.

‘There’s a lot of things to look at before Saturday – first of all getting 11 able-bodied people ready for the game.

‘Hopefully then we can freshen it up. That would be great.’

Williamson represents Pompey’s biggest doubt for Oldham’s visit to Fratton Park.

The former Sheffield United man is still sidelined by the hamstring problem he picked up at Colchester.

Adam Webster is also a doubt with the hip problem which forced him off after 35 minutes against Carlisle.

Ashley Westwood, who has signed on non-contract terms, has yet to return to training after picking up an ankle ligament injury.

The veteran central defender sustained the problem during the first half of the Capital One Cup trip to Plymouth.

Yet the anticipated arrivals of Ertl and Russell today will at least bolster Appleton’s otherwise threadbare squad.