Clarke’s ready to stop Pompey’s defensive rot

Matt Clarke. Picture: Joe Pepler
Matt Clarke. Picture: Joe Pepler

MATT CLARKE has demanded Pompey’s back line stand up and be counted to stop goals being shipped.

And the defender has promised he’s ready to step up and take responsibility in the search for clean sheets.

The race for starting positions at centre-half are hotting up as Paul Cook’s side prepare to go to Leyton Orient.

After four clean sheets in five league outings, the Blues have now gone six games without a shut out.

The focus has been on defensive deficiencies with five preventable goals conceded in the past two league games.

Clarke knows the sloppiness has to stop now if Pompey’s season is to improve.

He said: ‘It’s disappointing when you concede sloppy goals.

‘That’s football, you will concede goals – but as a defensive unit we need to be better.

‘We need to get the clean sheets back in our game.

‘When we keep conceding these early goals we’re giving ourselves a mountain to climb.

‘As a team we know it’s not good enough.

‘We don’t want to be looking at teams above us. We want to be up there ourselves.

‘So it’s up to us to take full responsibility. We need to be better and we need to start winning.

‘It doesn’t matter who’s next. It’s about us and stamping our authority on the game.

‘Sometimes we lose our way a bit, but we need to get back on the same page, start putting in the performances and getting points on the board.

‘Our away form needs to improve and so does our defending if we are to go to Leyton Orient and get a win.’

Tuesday’s 2-2 draw with Reading under-23s was Clarke’s second game in three days after returning to Pompey’s starting XI.

The 20-year-old’s only other appearance since returning from five months out with a groin injury was against Yeovil in the Checkatrade Trophy at the end of August.

Clarke admitted he has been feeling his way back in the last two outings.

But he is ready and willing to continue and build a run of starts, as he vies with the likes of Christian Burgess, Jack Whatmough, Tom Davies and Dominic Hyam for playing time.

Clarke said: ‘I’m fit and ready to play. If I’m needed to play, I’ll play. Simple as that.

‘It’s easy to make excuses but playing was something I hadn’t experienced for a long time last Saturday.

‘It was a little bit of a challenge for me, but one I have to welcome.

‘These are the games you want to be involved in.

‘So if you get the call it’s not about being eased in – you play and you play to the best of your ability.

‘Nothing compares to getting 90 minutes. To get fit you need to keep playing.

‘You’re looking for an opportunity to continue. If I get it I’ll look to take it and secure my spot.’