Bognor loan striker Dan Smith is in line for his Pompey debut tonight - but it looks like he could soon be moving on from Nyewood Lane.
Smith, who has scored 12 goals for the Rocks in an impressive loan spell, is likely to line up for Pompey in their Checkatrade Trophy tie at Southend tonight. And Blues boss Kenny Jackett feels the striker is ready for the National League as he continues his promising development.
Smith signed first-year professional terms at Fratton Park last summer after graduating through the club’s academy. The Warsash talent has spent this season on loan at Bognor and been in superb goalscoring form.
He’s netted 12 goals in 15 appearances for the Bostik League premier division side.
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With Oli Hawkins out with a calf injury and Brett Pitman set to be rested, it means Smith could be handed his Blues bow for the trip to Roots Hall in the third round of the Checkatrade Trophy. He was an unused substitute in the 2-1 win over Arsenal under-21s in the last stage.
Jackett has been impressed with the 19-year-old’s progress at Nyewood Lane this campaign. The Pompey boss now believes Smith is ready to move up the non-league pyramid and he’s told National League clubs to keep the youngster on their radar.
The manager said: "Dan Smith is one young player who could feature, as well as Bradley Lethbridge (who is also on loan with the Rocks), Freddie Read and Alex Bass. His goalscoring return this season is very good.
"We appreciate what Bognor have done for him so far. I think he could play higher as well. That’s no disrespect to Bognor or manager Jack Pearce, but I feel and I’ve said to quite a number of clubs in the National League to look at him and to watch him. The National League is a very good standard but I do feel he is capable of playing higher.
"He is 100-per-cent champing at the bit (to make his debut). It just hasn’t worked out for him so far. One of the Checkatrade Trophy games he was injured for and the last one he was an unused substitute. Dan is a lad I have got a lot of time for. He has got a very good attitude and people can underestimate that. Attitude is a big thing and his approach is very good.’
While Jackett regards Smith’s best role as a striker, he is blessed with versatility. He can also operate as a winger and at right-back. Jackett added: "He can out play wide. In pre-season, we played him as an attacking right-back at Brighton and he did well. He's good finisher and there is some athleticism and pace there – those are his strength."
Bognor were without Smith and Lethbridge at home to Carshalton on Saturday and while they have struggled at times without them, on this occasion goals by Mason Walsh and Jimmy Muitt earned a 2-0 win.
The Rocks are in league action away to Brightlingsea Regent tonight.