United manager Stuart McCall was pleased to welcome Cameron Borthwick-Jackson back to Glanford Park on Thursday, as the on-loan left-back steps up his recovery from cartilage damage.
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The boss told iFollow Iron: “It was nice to see him this morning (Thursday). He’s back after seven weeks out. He trained with Manchester United on Monday and Tuesday, and did a light session with us today. He’ll be up at full speed with us next Monday and it’s good to have him back.
“We have a behind-closed-doors game at Sheffield Wednesday next Tuesday so we’ll see if he can be involved in that. We’ll assess him ahead of it and see what next week brings. We don’t want to push him back, but we have options in that area with Butty and Harrison (Lewis Butroid and Harrison McGahey for the Rochdale game with Tom Pearce away on international duty with England Under-20s). We’ll assess it all next week.”
United return to action this Saturday when they visit fourth-placed Portsmouth and McCall will be looking to build on the 4-1 midweek home victory over Southend, which represented a first win in five matches.
He added: “It was a much-needed result and gave us some good confidence scoring four goals, which we’d not done in a while.
“Losing a goal in the first three minutes, against a team in and around us down there who are battling for their lives, wasn’t the greatest of starts but we grew into the game and had a couple of opportunities, got a little bit of luck with Tom Pearce’s goal, and then took some good chances ourselves.
“I don’t think anyone saw a 4-1 coming, especially after three minutes, but it’s about winning and thankfully we managed to do that.”
Speaking about the trip to Fratton Park, he continued: “We’re looking forward to it, like we do every game. We know it will be a difficult match but we’ll make it difficult for them as well.
“They’ve had a great start to the season and came here in November, beating us 2-1. We didn’t really get going until we went two down but we gave them a really good game in the end and were unfortunate not to take something from it. They had a tricky run but they seem to have got out of it now, getting to the Checkatrade Trophy final with a thumping 3-0 win at Bury. They beat Bradford comfortably in their last home game and then won at Walsall in midweek. They certainly have a lot of attacking options.
“As a player, you enjoy playing in these kinds of stadiums and big atmospheres. It will be great support at Fratton Park on Saturday and hopefully we can silence them.”
Missing the game will be Levi Sutton, who picked up a knock in midweek.
The boss said: “Levi will miss out with a tweak of his groin and I’d imagine it will only be Saturday that he misses.
“Jak (Alnwick) has had a bit of illness that he’s struggling to shake off but he’ll be okay. They’re all in good shape to travel down and looking to put in a strong performance. There will be times when we need to defend well, in the key moments, but we’ll also look to carry a threat.”
George Thomas and Tom Pearce have been called up for international duty with the Wales senior squad and England Under-20s respectively, missing the match at Rochdale, and McCall added: “We’ll be disappointed to miss them but it’s good for them both and we’re pleased for them. George has been a key player for us this season. He’ll tell you he should have got more goals, but his assists, work rate and game intelligence has been good.”
Meanwhile, Tom Pugh was handed his first professional contract on Wednesday and the boss continued: “He made an impact on me and Kenny (Black) as soon as we came into training. He’s enthusiastic, doesn’t look out of place when he joins in with the first team, and the more he trains with them the better he will get. This is his opportunity and where the hard work starts. He needs to stamp his personality on the game and around the place. He’ll be made welcome into a good group and will hopefully have a good career.”