Hardyman: Atangana ready for Pompey

Nigel Atangana in action for the reserves Picture: Allan Hutchings
Nigel Atangana in action for the reserves Picture: Allan Hutchings

Nigel Atangana has put himself back into first-team contention for tomorrow’s trip to Hartlepool.

That is the verdict of Paul Hardyman, who has been delighted with the Frenchman’s injury comeback this week.

Atangana played 45 minutes for the reserves in their 2-2 draw with Luton on Tuesday, netting the Blues’ second goal.

It was his first match action since injuring a hamstring at Yeovil in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy.

That injury sidelined him for the Blues’ next four League Two fixtures.

But Hardyman, who oversaw the reserve clash at Furze Lane, believes the former Hawks midfielder is now ready for consideration.

Pompey’s joint-first-team coach said: ‘I was really pleased with Nigel. For me, it was important he got 45 minutes – that is why we took him off at half-time.

‘When he had to come off against Yeovil we felt it was a serious one. But Sean Duggan (physio) and his medical team have done great to get him back and credit to them.

‘Credit to Nigel also, he has worked hard at doing that and, thankfully, his injury wasn’t as bad as first feared.

‘It has been two to three weeks when we were fearing four to six weeks.

‘He was a little bit rusty against Luton but his fitness levels look good, which we were more concerned about.

‘The technical side of the game will come back to Nigel quickly, the fitness is more the issue but he looked good. I was pleased with him.

‘He got through it physically, while, technically, he will get better.

‘Nick Awford also came back in the reserves. Both have had injuries, both have been out for more than two weeks and now they are back involved.

‘I am sure they will be in contention for making the trip to Hartlepool.’

Also making a return in the reserves was Ricky Holmes, having missed the last two matches with a back problem.

He was joined by fellow first-team squad members Nicky Shorey, Andy Barcham, Miles Storey, Michael Poke and Adam Webster.

All are in the frame for the long trek to struggling Hartlepool.

Colin Cooper’s men find themselves in the League Two relegation zone, nine matches into the campaign.

And Hardyman has been delighted at the attitude of the senior players pushing to make tomorrow’s squad.

He added: ‘In reserve games I’m looking at how the senior players are going to react – and not one ducked a tackle or ducked working hard and credit to them.

‘I have also looked for challenges such as Brandon Haunstrup stepping from right-back to left-back, playing both positions really well, especially in possession.

‘It’s about challenges and I am looking at how they deal with challenges.

‘The games are videoed and we will sit down with the players and go through some of those.

‘We tell the younger players what they can improve on but also if we see something with Andy Barcham, Ricky Holmes or even Nicky Shorey we will still pull them and talk to them about it.

‘It’s a little bit of debate to open up and see and hopefully they will improve.’

Hartlepool are on seven points, inside the drop zone courtesy of an inferior goal difference to Oxford.