Time for pre-season Mark II

Andy Awford. Picture: Joe Pepler
Andy Awford. Picture: Joe Pepler

POMPEY’S pre-season Mark II is under way.

Andy Awford has revealed he will use the 13-day gap between Sunday’s 1-1 draw at Luton and next month’s trip to Newport County to drill his players for the second half of the campaign.

The Blues manager will treat the enforced break as a ‘mini pre-season’, with the meeting with the Hatters marking the half-way point in League Two after 23 games.

Tranmere’s involvement in the FA Cup at home to Swansea on Saturday has given Pompey a blank weekend.

With no game on New Year’s Day it means an unusually long hiatus from action.

Awford will put that to use by reinforcing his ideas as the Blues go into a testing January period.

The trip to Rodney Parade on January 10 is followed by meetings with Burton, Southend and Wycombe – all sides in the top six.

The manager has returned to the 4-2-3-1 formation, which served his side so well at the end of last season, in the past three games. Looking at how to execute his plans will be a key focus for his men.

And an in-house 11-a-side game has been pencilled in for Friday for a squad which is still top heavy.

‘It’ll be a mini pre-season,’ said Awford.

‘We’ll probably have a 11 v 11 game at the training ground on Friday.

‘With the amount of players we’ve got at the moment there will probably be enough for a round-robin tournament!

‘There’s an opportunity for us, and we’ll make the most of it.

‘We can reinforce some ideas and what we want to do. We have that added time to be able to do that.’

January will also mark an acceleration in reserve-team activity for Pompey.

There are four fixtures in the southern division of the Final Third Development League across the month.

That begins at Roko against Peterborough next Tuesday.

Trips to Plymouth (January 13) and Cambridge (January 20) precede a final home meeting with Bristol City on January 27.

Awford knows the break will be more useful for some of his players than others.

James Dunne returned to the bench at Luton following nine games on the sidelines, after injuring his knee at home to Carlisle at the start of November.

That was ahead of time, and the no-nonsense midfielder will now benefit from getting some minutes under his belt before the next League Two game.

The same can be said for Danny East, who has seen action in the previous two reserve fixtures against Leyton Orient and Newport.

East has not featured for the first team since suffering a pelvic injury in pre-season.

Jack Whatmough continues to be treated with kid gloves by Awford, as a result of an ongoing knee issue.

Meanwhile, Adam Webster has made just two starts after recovering from a knee injury, while Tom Craddock has been pencilled in for a new year reserve return. Wes Fogden (knee) remains sidelined.

Awford added: ‘It’s a chance to get work into the ones who need it.’