Clarke: It’s about Pompey points, not clean sheets

Matt Clarke. Picture: Joe Pepler
Matt Clarke. Picture: Joe Pepler
Jack Whatmough, centre, was gaffer for a day Josh Sweetmans Pompey man of the match from Saturdays draw against Walsall

Pompey 1 Walsall 1: Gaffer for a day

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MATT CLARKE shrugged off the plaudits for Pompey’s outstanding defence and insisted: Promotion is all that matters.

The Blues now boast the fourth-best defensive record outside the Premier League.

I would rather win a game 3-2 than lose 1-0 with the defence having conceded fewer goals

Matt Clarke

Tuesday night’s 2-0 victory over Blackpool represented successive clean sheets for Paul Cook’s side.

Now only Bolton (23), Newcastle (25) and Brighton (26) have conceded fewer than Pompey’s return of 28 this season.

Clarke’s impressive central-defensive partnership with Christian Burgess continues to flourish as they provide the Blues’ backbone.

But the 20-year-old is not interested in receiving hearty slaps on the back.

He said: ‘Our defensive record is something we cannot really dwell on because we are not in the position we want.

‘If we were top of the league we could talk about our good stats and how we were happy with them.

‘But at the moment we are not where we want to be in the table, so I don’t think it’s something we can really boast about it.

‘It wouldn’t matter if we had conceded more goals than currently – I would definitely take that in order to be in a better league position.

‘I would rather win a game 3-2 than lose 1-0 with the defence having conceded fewer goals.

‘As a defender, conceding goals is obviously something we don’t want to do.

‘But we want to win football matches.

‘That is the most important thing.’

League Two’s tightest defence have also amassed 13 clean sheets in 30 matches.

Meanwhile, no team can match the return of just 28 goals conceded, although fourth-placed Luton are on 29.

Burgess and Clarke were initially pitched as Pompey’s centre-half pairing in the first game of Paul Cook’s reign.

Adam Webster’s encouraging development split them on occasions last season, while injury ruled Clarke out towards the end.

However, they have now appeared 18 times together in the current campaign.

Clarke added: ‘When you look over recent games, even when we’ve lost we’re not conceding many chances.

‘We’re not giving the opposition many shots on target, so are heading in the right direction.

‘Even though Christian and myself are happy with how we are playing, we will always aspire to get better.

‘From playing regularly together, you learn about your partner’s game, you recognise what they are good at and what they aren’t. That’s a good foundation for any partnership.

‘It builds over time, much of it is developed on the training ground, when practicing for a game we are always together so I’d like to think I know what he’s going to do.

‘I think we complement each other as a pair and believe we’re a good partnership.’