Clarke: Pompey players feel fans’ frustration

Matt Clarke kept his focus. Picture: Joe Pepler
Matt Clarke kept his focus. Picture: Joe Pepler
Brett Pitman. Picture: Joe Pepler

Pompey striker ‘fit’ to face Pilgrims

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Matt Clarke spent large spells of Pompey’s stalemate with Hartlepool as a virtual spectator before insisting: We share the fans’ Fratton frustration.

The 20-year-old defender was part of a ball-dominant Blues side camped out in their opponents’ half for almost the entirety of the second period on Saturday.

But with little to do himself as his team-mates were repelled by a dogged defensive display from the visitors, Clarke could only watch on with despair as former Pompey stopper Trevor Carson ‘had a blinder’ in the Pools goal.

Increasing crowd tension concluded in a smattering of boos on the full-time whistle as the Blues were denied victory, with the unfancied visitors collecting the point they came for.

Clarke, though, insists the lack of a vital three-point haul – on a day all three sides above Pompey won to increase the gap to the automatic-promotion places to seven points – was not for the want of trying.

He said: ‘We hear the fans’ frustration but we feel it as well.

‘We are trying to score.

‘You can see I am running forward with the ball and Burgey (Christian Burgess) is doing the same.

‘We are all a little bit frustrated.

‘We all want the same thing – that is to win the game.

‘But it’s just one of those days.’

Clarke believes Pompey’s inability to make an early breakthrough proved costly – not for the first time this season – as Hartlepool grew in belief and confidence they could hang on for a share of the spoils.

And led by an inspired Carson, that’s precisely what happened as the Blues dropped two points.

Clarke, though, was keen to focus on the positives seen in the game.

He said: ‘If we can get a goal early doors it becomes two or three for us because the opposition is forced to come out and play.

‘But when it is still 0-0 they are holding onto something.

‘And their goalkeeper has had a blinder of day.

‘As a team, though, we were very solid and our structure was good.

‘I think we mixed our game up very well.

‘We hit Smudge (Michael Smith) a lot which was important because we needed to take the game to the opposition but when we did get the second ball we played some good football after that.

‘We have just got to be patient.

‘If we create the chances going forward that we did on Saturday then the goals will come.

‘Not every team is going to have a goalkeeper play like theirs did.’

While Carson was the undoubted man of the match, counterpart David Forde was not called into action all game in the Pompey goal as the hosts were untroubled by a lacklustre Pools attack.

Clarke, though, was not going to allow a loss of concentration to cost the Blues dear.

He added: ‘You have got to keep switched on at all times because one long ball, misplaced header or touch and they can be in on goal and the game can soon change.

‘It is just about getting yourself set up in the right positions early on so you don’t have to struggle or make a tackle to compensate for being caught out.

‘As defenders we like heading it or tackling but we will never complain if things are quiet for us.

‘Sometimes it can be enjoyable to just watch the attacking players do their thing.’