Paul Cook has called on Pompey’s defenders to help fill the absence of the ‘outstanding’ Christian Burgess.
The central defender is out for an estimated four weeks having sustained ligament damage to his right ankle against Hartlepool.
That opens the door for Matt Clarke to step into the side to partner Adam Webster at Northampton tomorrow.
Despite being a regular at the start of the campaign, Clarke has not lined up for Pompey in the league since October’s 3-1 victory at Cambridge United.
He did, however, replace Burgess for the FA Cup victory over Accrington Stanley earlier this month.
Burgess’ loss is a big one for the Blues, having been one of their most impressive summer signings under Cook.
Christian is very popular around the club and has a great personality. He’s been a very good signingPaul Cook
And the Blues boss believes the Peterborough recruit has shone.
Cook said: ‘He does some great things and some horrific things, does Christian!
‘But he is an outstanding young centre-half.
‘And if he keeps developing the way he is, I think he can have a really good football career.
‘He’s a great lad, I think he’s done really well.
‘He has grown into himself as a ball-playing centre-half.
‘As a ball-playing centre-half you must make mistakes.
‘You can’t have as much of the ball as he has and do as many things in the game without making one or two mistakes.
‘We certainly don’t want mistakes, but we are not going to discourage him from being the player he is.
‘Christian is very popular around the club and has a great personality. He’s been a very good signing.
‘He’s a very intelligent lad, although you wouldn’t think so looking at him!
‘Having said that, at the hospital visit he was fantastic, really conducted himself well, and that is nice to see.
‘He’s one of those lads that thinks a lot about the game and wants to do well – and they are the type we want.
‘He is doing well. He missed Accrington because we wanted to give Clarkie a run out.
‘You feel you are going to need Clarkie to come in, so giving him a few minutes on the pitch was important.
‘Looking back, it was a good decision now.’
Clarke and Webster started together against Derby and Reading in the League Cup.
They also impressed in that second-round FA Cup win over Stanley.
Cook added: ‘We move on, we don’t doubt the players that come in.
‘While we are disappointed that Christian doesn’t play, we are happy for Matt Clarke that he does.
‘Matt Clarke is an outstanding young centre-half for different reasons.
‘We are just pleased with the players we have got, irrespective of who starts.
‘Clarke plays tomorrow but if someone gets injured we’ve got problems because we can’t sign anyone until January.’