PORTSMOUTH player-manager Steve Claridge intends to play through the pain tomorrow in a bid to pep up his team's limp attack.

Luke Nightingale has started the last four Blues games while an unfit Claridge has relegated himself to the susbtitutes' bench.

But 20-year-old Nightingale has failed to score in any of those starts alongside Lee Bradbury.

Top-scorer Claridge, who has netted ten times this season, plans to be dosed up with painkillers for tomorrow's visit of Preston to shield an ankle injury sustained in the New Year after a tackle by Gillingham's Adrian Pennock.

He has also been struggling with a hamstring strain and, as a result, has barely trained for the last two months. "It is still not right - the whole joint around my ankle is really bruised. When I wake up in the morning it feels terrible. I can't walk on it, but I'll play on Saturday."

Claridge has decided to shake things up in the wake of last Saturday's disastrous 2-1 defeat at Grimsby. Ceri Hughes and Kevin Harper, both injured at Blundell Park, miss out, but Lee Sharpe is likely to be plunged straight into the action after tying up a month's loan move from Bradford City in midweek.

Harper has suffered a recurrence of shin splints and is likely to be out of action for up to two weeks. He is as frustrated as the rest of the first-team squad over their inconsistent displays.

"I don't know what the problem is," said Harper. "The manager is working on it. We have got to work hard. If you don't, you don't win anything.

"The last time we played at Fratton Park was against Wimbledon and we battled from the first minute to the last and produced the goods."

Claridge is also expecting a better performance tomorrow against a Preston side who beat them 1-0 at Deepdale last September.

"Last week was the worst we have played for half an hour all season," he said.

"Good sides don't give two- goal starts and let teams dictate like that. Blackburn and Fulham won't do that and we can't afford to do again.

"We are what we are - a mid-table side. We will win some and lose some, but we have to be able to dictate games.

"If a club likes ours wants to win anything, we will have to play like that."