Pompey strike balance as they show defensive strength

Matt Clarke hailed Pompey's defensive balance as they show their steel.

Tuesday, 20th December 2016, 7:00 am
Updated Thursday, 7th June 2018, 6:47 pm
Matt Clarke. Picture: Joe Pepler
Matt Clarke. Picture: Joe Pepler

The Blues centre-half feels continuity is making all the difference with Paul Cook’s men maintaining one of the best records at the back in League Two.

But the fear of the strength in depth his side have in his position is keeping the 20-year-old on his toes.

Saturday’s 0-0 draw with Hartlepool saw Cook’s side pick up their second clean sheet on the bounce on a comfortable afternoon for the back four.

Christian Burgess. Picture: Joe Pepler

That made it nine league shut outs for the season for Pompey from 21 League Two fixtures to date.

With 20 goals conceded, just Luton Town have let in fewer this term with 19 goals shipped on league duty.

It’s a resolve which will need to be continued if Cook’s men are to bridge the seven-point gap to the automatic promotion spots.

Saturday was the sixth league game on the bounce Clarke has partnered Christian Burgess at the back.

He feels having a left-footer on the left side of the central pairing, with a right-footer alongside him is a big plus.

But with the likes of Tom Davies and Jack Whatmough waiting in the wings, there is no room to let standards slip.

Clarke said: ‘There’s a good balance. That’s the word you’d use. There’s good balance at the back.

‘But we have good strength in depth in the squad. We know that. The gaffer might think one of us needs a break moving forward.

‘We’ll take that on the chin and move on but we want to keep doing what we’re doing.

‘The continuity shows he has belief in the team. And over the past six games on many occasions we’ve shown we have everything we need to win.’

Clarke admitted he’s enjoyed the momentum given to his season after being handed an unbroken league run in Cook’s starting line-up.

That’s a world away from a frustrating summer and start to the campaign which hindered his progress.

Five months out with a groin injury meant it took time for the former Ipswich Town man to build impetus, with his first league appearance not arriving until October.

Now, though, he feels his is benefitting from the regular involvement. With four games in 11 days now to follow over the festive period, there is the opportunity build a rhythm from the quickfire manner in which the games arrive.

Clarke is fully aware, however, there is no leeway for standards to slip if that run is to continue.

He said: ‘We’ll keep doing what we’re doing.

‘We have to stay on our toes because, if not, you’ll soon find yourself on the bench or in the stands. That’s the real depth in the squad We have to keep doing what we can.

‘When you are in team it’s quite easy to be in that environment because you play, you rest and then you play again.

‘We all want to be out there. The work on the training ground is important and has to be done but this is why you want to be out there.

‘This when it counts. The Saturday or Tuesday is when it really counts.’