Guy Whittingham has lifted the lid on David Connolly’s surprise omission from his Braintree line-up.
The veteran striker was the only unused outfield player on the substitutes’ bench in Tuesday night’s goalless draw.
The injured Sonny Bradley and keeper John Sullivan also did not feature, leaving the remaining 19 members of the Blues squad playing some part in the uninspiring fixture against the non-leaguers.
Before then Connolly had made two 45-minute appearances, scoring at Bognor last weekend.
But Whittingham revealed pitch concerns at the Amlin Stadium prompted him to keep the veteran on the bench.
And he expects the former Sunderland man to be back in action at Fratton Park against Charlton.
He said: ‘We don’t want to have a situation where we are not picking players in the season because we weren’t careful enough.
‘The ground (at Braintree) was quite hard and David is of the older generation.
‘It happens to us all, Pat as well – that’s why we only gave him 45 minutes.
‘You have got to look after the players who need to be looked after.
‘The surface didn’t suit them so they are not going to be risked.
‘I have said all along, youngsters like Ashley Harris and Adam Webster can get away with it because their bodies can recover better.
‘The jarring on a hard surface isn’t so bad for them.
‘But as you get on you need to make sure you look after people and we’ve tried to do that now with David and Pat.
‘Both were willing to play but I said to them it’s not about Tuesday night, it’s about August 3.’
Meanwhile, Bradley is expected to be fit for Saturday’s visit of the Addicks.
The central defender missed the Braintree friendly with a hip flexor problem, while there was no training for the squad yesterday.
And Whittingham believes the rest will ensure he will be fine to line up in the first Fratton Park friendly of the summer.
He added: ‘Sonny is okay, it was just caused by a change from playing on a hard surface (St John’s) to a soft surface.
‘He just felt it a little bit and also wasn’t feeling the best, so again there was no point risking it against Braintree.’