WES FOGDEN is to take a step closer to his first-team comeback on Monday.
The midfielder has been pencilled in to start for the Blues in a behind-closed-doors friendly at Woking.
The fixture has been specially arranged by Pompey with there being no reserve fixture next week, while the first-team travel to Dagenham & Redbridge on Tuesday night.
Joining Fogden in the starting line-up at the non-leaguers will be Paul McCallum, who has six matches remaining of his ban.
But it will be the ex-Bournemouth man who will attract most attention in his first match since damaging knee ligaments in training back in July.
Fogden recently returned to full training with the Blues, yet the fixture represents the latest hurdle in his recovery.
And Andy Awford is relishing seeing the 26-year-old in action again.
He said: ‘We put a circular out asking if anybody wanted a game and Woking came back to us.
‘It is not just for Wes. We don’t have a reserve-team game next week because of the first-team match at Dagenham & Redbridge.
‘We wanted a game anyway for other players such as Paul McCallum, so Wes is not the only one who needs to play. But, obviously, it is important for him as part of his graded return.
‘We will start him so he gets the warm-up done properly because when you come on for the last 30 minutes you run up and down the touchline for a little bit and don’t get any ball.
‘So the idea is to start him and then bring him off after half-an-hour.
‘Wes is also going to take part in the warm-up tomorrow before the Hartlepool game, just to be involved in it.
‘He will do some stuff with the lads to keep him involved in the environment, which I think is good for his psyche. He will also stay out when they come back in so he gets a little bit of a feel for it.
‘Hopefully, by the end of February we can have him back involved.’
Of course, McCallum’s presence for the Woking fixture also represents a talking point.
Awford added: ‘We have dealt with Paul internally and he has been heavily fined.
‘He will be available for 11 games at the end of the season.
‘He is still training with us and will play on Monday.’
Meanwhile, Awford has ruled out interest in former Pompey midfielder David Norris.
The 33-year-old is a free agent following his mutually-agreed release from Leeds on Monday.