Survivor Jamie Ashdown has been challenged to show his desire to stay at Pompey.
Michael Appleton hailed the attitude of the Blues’ longest serving player as he returned to his mantle of No1.
Appleton admitted Ashdown was close to ending his eight-year association with the club with a recent switch to Millwall on the cards.
But the 31-year-old was brought back from the brink as Stephen Henderson moved to West Ham and now has a critical role to play in the bid for Championship survival.
Appleton believes there is a route to him now staying at the club beyond the end of the season, when his current deal comes to a close.
He said: ‘Before the Stephen one came about, I had a very brief conversation with Kenny Jackett regarding Jamie.
‘At the time, I thought if Jamie did go there it would have been an opportunity for me to free up an outfield player as a loan.
‘But the Stephen thing came about very quickly so I had to pull the plug on that one.
‘There’s no way I could have let him go.
‘He’s been good. He’s been frustrated because he’s had an injury.
‘We tried to keep it really quiet but he was on the bench for six games when he was injured.
‘He was fine in terms of doing the bits he’s got to do – crosses and shot-stopping – but he wouldn’t have been able to kick the ball.
‘Jamie’s been frustrated himself. No-one likes to be a number two but he’s responded well enough.
‘He’s experienced. He’s played Premier League football and he’s been in and around some very good keepers with great experience.
‘He’s a realist, too. He realises the situation we’re in, he realises what needs to be done and he gets on with it.
‘At the end of the day, he’s the same as most players.
‘No-one gives us much chance at the minute and you can understand why – it looks very difficult.
‘So it’s up to him to prove he wants a contract beyond this season no matter what division we’re in.
‘If he does, we’ll sit down and have a chat about that.
‘If he doesn’t, we’ll try to do the best by the football club and get other people in.’
Ashdown earned the plaudits for playing a key role in Tuesday’s 4-1 thumping of Birmingham.
His second-half stop from Marlon King at 1-0 proved a turning point – with Chris Maguire then sparking the flood of goals which fans are hoping will mark the start of a survival run.
‘That’s what Jamie will do and he will rightly take the plaudits because it was a very good save,’ said Appleton.
‘Pivotal moments happen in games and seasons all the time.
‘We ended up going down the other end after the save and getting our goal. That’s what we expect from him.
‘He’s been watching Stephen Henderson do that for two or three months now.
‘That was his opportunity to get a pat on the shoulder.
‘I had a bit of a joke with him after the game because I was going to give him the biggest rollicking ever for sitting down and diving backwards for the first goal. He knew that as well.
‘Joking apart, he deserves the plaudits because he’s been waiting a long time for them.’