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NATHAN JONES ON PORTSMOUTH TEST, SHINNIE AND CENTRE BACKS

2 November 2017

Speaking ahead of Saturday's Emirates FA Cup game against Portsmouth, Town boss Nathan Jones is pleased to see Andrew Shinnie back on first team duties following his recovery from an ankle injury, whilst he also claimed he has no fear in playing Akin Famewo or Frankie Musonda in any game.

Birmingham loanee Shinnie has impressed since his return from an ankle problem, going close to scoring against Coventry City last Saturday as a substitute before netting his first and second goal for the Town in the 2-1 win over AFC Wimbledon on Tuesday night – that guaranteed the Hatters top spot in Southern Group F in the Checkatrade Trophy and progression the knock-out stages.

Jones said: "He would have probably wanted to do it earlier, but he's missed a bit of football. He's one that we love here. He started the season in excellent form, he picked up a little injury and that's what set him back a little bit.

"With us doing so well it slowed his way back into the first team, but he's back at full fitness, he has had two or three really good games and a little bit of an impact on the first the other day so he's ready to go."

Musonda and Famewo also put in strong performances on Tuesday night as they came up against the Dons' top scorer Lyle Taylor and the experienced Cody McDonald, and Jones was happy with the latest part of their education.

"They're pushing, so that if an opportunity comes, say for example something happens to Alan Sheehan, then I would have no problem playing Akin, none whatsoever," Jones explained. "The same with Frankie. Frankie has more competition for the right side, there's just more there because there's Johnny Mullins, Scott Cuthbert and Glen Rea can do that as well.

"But I would have absolutely no problem playing either one of them. They learned more on Tuesday night (against AFC Wimbledon). They learned against Millwall last year. They're better for it. They're close, there's nobody in this squad I wouldn't think twice about putting into the first team."

When quizzed on whether the 18-year-old or 19-year-old's chances would be improved by a loan away from the club, the gaffer felt that could be a possibility, but on the flipside, they might find their chance is just around the corner.

He said: "They might do [gain experience by going out on loan]. But we can't say that that's going to be the pathway forward. They may have to be patient.

They may get an opportunity, they may take it and stay in. you never know when an opportunity arises.

"If it comes through a loan move or it comes through a Checkatrade Trophy game or it comes through them playing well enough or somebody picking up an injury or suspension. Whatever way it is, they have got to make sure they are ready to take it, because I won't feat to put them in."

The Hatters welcome Pompey to Kenilworth in the first round of the Emirates FA Cup this Saturday, and Jones believes it's the best fixture of the round.

The Welshman said: "We're looking forward to it and I think it's the tie of the round. Obviously I'm slightly biased, but I really think it's the tie of the round – it hasn't quite got the romance, but in terms of a football match, I think it's as big as it comes.

"This is a real, real good test as they won the league last year and probably did it deservedly so as over the season, the league doesn't lie. They nicked it on the last day, but they had that momentum going into the final stages and that's what you've got to do."


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