Robins defender one of many Blues targets to slip away

Coventry's Cody McDonald is tackled by Darren Ward of Millwall during the npower Championship match at the Ricoh Arena, Coventry. Tuesday April 17th 2012.PA Photo : David Davies.

Coventry's Cody McDonald is tackled by Darren Ward of Millwall during the npower Championship match at the Ricoh Arena, Coventry. Tuesday April 17th 2012.PA Photo : David Davies.

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Michael Appleton’s men will come up against the one that got away tonight as Pompey face Swindon.

And the Blues boss expects that to be a recurring theme in the coming weeks and months.

Darren Ward made his league debut for Swindon on Saturday, following his loan switch from Millwall.

That’s despite Appleton having the defender lined up to arrive at Fratton Park for most of the summer.

But with promised budgets never materialising and the goal posts being shifted for the 36-year-old when it came to finances, Ward’s arrival never happened.

Paolo Di Canio didn’t dally and brought in the powerful defender.

And Ward will be operating in a Swindon shirt tonight, instead of Pompey’s royal blue.

It’s a cause of frustration for Appleton, but Ward isn’t the only man to fall into that category.

Preston’s Iain Hume agreed a loan move to League One rivals Doncaster, despite it looking, for a long time, like Fratton Park would be his destination.

Appleton said: ‘Darren was someone we were looking at for a long while.

‘I spoke to (Millwall boss) Kenny Jackett numerous times about him. I know for a fact Kenny didn’t want him to go because he rates the kid so highly himself and he’s been great for him, but he was in a good place for us. So I had numerous conversations with him over it and if we were ever in a place to do something as a football club – that one would have been done a long time ago.

‘But good luck to Darren. He’s a great kid and I’m sure he’ll do fantastically well at Swindon.

‘There will be many players we come up against in the coming months who I feel could have been Portsmouth players.

‘The reality is there will be a lot of players playing in the Championship now who should be playing for Portsmouth.’

For Pompey, the one that got away seems to be a familiar term when it comes to Swindon players.

Gosport lad Matt Ritchie falls into that category.

Former Blues boss Steve Cotterill decided he wasn’t for him and let him move to the County Ground last year.

The 23-year-old will make an emotional return to the club he loves tonight as one of his team’s key assets.

Appleton believes his men will face a side with plenty of talent within its ranks, making the game worthy of a billing above England’s third tier.

Appleton said: ‘We all know about Matt Ritchie’s qualities on that right-hand side, coming in on his left foot.

‘There seems to be a few players like him with Pompey connections, who I’ve known about, who have gone elsewhere.

‘Swindon have some dangerous players. The front two are dangerous and Paul Benson when he comes off the bench is dangerous.

‘They have some good options. You only have to look at the players they leave on the bench and in the stand to see how strong they are.

‘They have a lot of quality and it will be a good game. It will almost be, dare I say it, a Championship game in a way.

‘We see it as that type of game, and hopefully it will suit our players.’