MICHAEL Appleton is confident Oxford United’s younger players will be able to handle the atmosphere at a packed Fratton Park today.

Callum O’Dowda, Sam Long and Josh Ruffels all started the 3-0 win over Mansfield Town a week ago, while Josh Ashby featured a week before.

It will be a different occasion at Portsmouth, where the crowd could be in excess of 16,000, but Appleton has faith in his young guns.

United’s head coach said: “We’re trying to build a mentality with the young players so they’re able to deal with stuff like that.

“I suppose the trust I have put in them over the last couple of months answers the question about whether I think they’re ready to take whatever comes in front of them.

“If they’ve got grand designs to play higher in the league with Oxford United or anyone else, these are the games you want to play in.”

Latest United news:

Joe Skarz could return after missing last weekend with a hamstring problem, while George Baldock (knee) and Andy Whing (hip) should overcome minor knocks.

Portsmouth have named the same XI for the last five games, winning four of them.

But Andy Awford will have to make a change today, with influential midfielder James Dunne beginning a two-game suspension. Nigel Atangana is likely to deputise.


Portsmouth: from Jones, Devera, Robinson, Whatmaugh, Passley, Hollands, Atangana, Butler, Wallace, Tubbs, Taylor, Westcarr, Chaplin, Ertl, Barcham, Shorey, Chorley, Poke.

Oxford Utd: from Clarke, Baldock, Mullins, Wright, Skarz, MacDonald, Collins, Ruffels, O’Dowda, Hylton, Hoban, Roberts, Hoskins, Roofe, Rasulo, Ashby, Whing, Rose, Dunkley, Long, Ashdown.