Jack Whatmough is in contention to shore up Pompey’s defence at Cheltenham.
That is the verdict of Paul Hardyman after watching the teenager make his return from injury for the Blues’ reserves.
Whatmough played the first 45 minutes of Tuesday’s 4-1 success at Leyton Orient, before being replaced by Johnny Ertl.
That was enough to convince Hardyman the Gosport youngster is over his recent knee injury.
Boss Andy Awford held back a potential comeback against Accrington Stanley last weekend in favour of giving him an extra week.
In his absence, the Blues lost 3-2 – but Whatmough is now firmly in the frame for Saturday’s trip to Whaddon Road.
First-team coach Hardyman said: ‘Jack did 45 minutes on Tuesday, which puts him in contention for a place, as it does Adam Webster, Joe Devera and Johnny Ertl.
‘It’s about getting as many players as much football time as you can, you can train all you want but actually playing a game gets you right.
‘Ahead of the Accrington game we were concerned about Jack because he is a young lad still.
‘People don’t realise Adam Webster is still aged 19, he has been around for ages, Jed Wallace is 20, Dan Butler is 20, they are still young but have played a hell of a lot of games and people forget how young they are.
‘Jack is just 18, only a few months ago he wasn’t even old enough to have a pint, but he has been good enough to play for the first-team for the last couple of years.
‘You cannot push these kids because you will break them, that is what we were concerned about with Jack.
‘If we put him in last week he might be out over the Christmas period and we want everyone as fit as we can.
‘I would say he is definitely in contention now.
‘Since then the extra rest has helped him, he has got more training under his belt, he has got more minutes like Tuesday.
‘It has done him the world of good confidence-wise as well because he knows he is ready now, so fingers crossed and touch wood he is going to get through 90 minutes for the first team when he is selected.
‘If that is Saturday, great, if it’s not and it’s the following Saturday or whatever he will still be ready.’
Whatmough has made 13 appearances so far this season – and 25 overall in his Pompey career.