No game is good news for Rocha

Pompey defender Ricardo Rocha
Pompey defender Ricardo Rocha
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Ricardo Rocha was making the most of the blank fixture weekend as he attempts to build his match sharpness.

Rocha is in the middle of an intense period of training as he continues to further his fitness.

Caretaker boss Guy Whittingham feels not having a game on Saturday arrived at the perfect time for Rocha, after he came back to Fratton Park.

The 34-year-old has been using that extra breathing space to get his match fitness levels back after featuring in the Blues’ past two games.

Whittingham believes the defender’s nous and experience will prove a key asset in guiding him through games at present.

That will allow him to get up to speed in the cut and thrust of a League One campaign.

Whittingham said: ‘We’re in a two-week period without a game, with lots of training in between.

‘That will be a help with Ricardo.

‘He has that nous which will help him get through games and, physically, he’s fit.

‘It’s just that touch and space awareness that he’s so good at as well.

‘It won’t take him long to get there with that, though.’

Rocha’s performances since coming back to Pompey have been typically composed and added an extra dimension to a Pompey defence, which has been shipping goals all season.

The former Spurs man gave a penalty away against Leyton Orient for a foul on Kevin Lisbie in his first game back.

Whittingham thought that was harsh on him but the match proved the ideal occasion to show him what the English game’s third tier is all about.

He said: ‘People can see Ricardo’s a calming influence.

‘You could say he gave a penalty away against Leyton Orient but if that was a penalty then their striker must have a bad touch.

‘Ric has had a bit of a baptism of fire but he knows now what this league is about.

‘He’s faced a very typical League One club and that’s done him a lot more good than harm.

‘Someone of Ric’s calibre will always take up the gauntlet in these games, though. He’s that type of person.’

Whittingham knows he now faces a selection dilemma at the back ahead of the trip to League One leaders Tranmere on Saturday.

Rocha, Lubomir Michalik and Gabor Gyepes are all vying for the two central-defensive berths.

Whittingham is happy to have the headache, though.

‘We had issues with centre-halves, in terms of the lack of competition,’ he said.

‘But with Ricardo coming in we have three centre-halves.

‘You have two of them, with the third one on the bench looking to get in. We need that and we need that everywhere.

‘I’ve got a choice, three centre-halves is a lovely dilemma to have.

‘It’s a difficult one because they all have the right attributes to do well.

‘I’ll have to make a decision. That’s good that I have to make one, where before I didn’t have to.’

– JORDAN CROSS