AT THE age of 24 and following 124 Football League appearances, it was a first for Adam Barton.
And according to Enda Stevens, the makeshift central defender excelled.
Barts’ ability shines through on the pitch, I think most fans will see how natural-looking he is on the ball – and he had a cigar out at centre backEnda Stevens
Barton was named alongside Matt Clarke at centre-half against Luton yesterday as the Blues dug deep into their resources.
With Adam Webster serving a one-match ban, Christian Burgess injured and Jack Whatmough not yet ready to return after a long lay-off, boss Paul Cook looked elsewhere.
Barton had previously fulfilled the role against Exeter in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy this season, while also appeared as a substitute in the Boxing Day defeat at Leyton Orient.
However, yesterday marked the maiden occasion he lined up in the position in league football.
The response was a goalless Fratton Park draw against a Luton side led on a caretaker basis by ex-Pompey boss Andy Awford.
Barton performed admirably in his unfamiliar remit, earning plenty of praise.
And team-mate Stevens was among those to applaud the contribution of a player who normally operates as a central midfielder.
He said: ‘I thought Barts was excellent. I don’t think he has ever been there in the league before but you could swear he had played his whole career there.
‘He was like a Rolls Royce at the back!
‘Barts just reads the game so well. He made one last-ditch tackle but overall was always in the right place at the right time and able to step in and open play up and he was superb.
‘It is a credit to him how much he reads the game, he knows where the ball is going before most people and is confident enough in his own ability to take an extra touch.
‘He is very relaxed. Any more laid back on the ball and he would fall over!
‘Barts’ ability shines through on the pitch, I think most fans will see how natural-looking he is on the ball – and he had a cigar out at centre back.
‘He didn’t put a foot wrong.’
For Awford it was a return to the club he departed as manager 260 days earlier.
Following the sacking of John Still, the 43-year-old was marking his third match in charge as caretaker – and departed with a point.
Yet the Hatters tested Brian Murphy only once, while he failed to win a single corner.
And it was the Blues who were left disappointed at their failure to win a match they dominated.
Stevens added: ‘We are looking a lot more solid at home.
‘There are teams that come here and try to catch us on the break, but with the two centre-halves and Dutchie (Hollands) and Michael Doyle, that group is so strong it just cancels out every attack.
‘I don’t really remember Luton having many chances, Brian Murphy didn’t have much to do.
‘We dominated long spells of the game, especially in the first half, but you just have to score when you are on top.
‘We are creating chances, that was a positive, but it just wasn’t our day.
‘It’s frustration for all of us because the way we started it looked like the goal was going to come and their keeper made a few good saves. But it wasn’t to be.’