Clarke reveals change of Pompey policy

Matt Clarke in action against Hartlepool. Picture: Joe Pepler
Matt Clarke in action against Hartlepool. Picture: Joe Pepler
Kanu takes on Morten Gamst Pedersen.  Picture: Steve Reid

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Matt Clarke has revealed Pompey’s back-to-basics approach to shutting up shop.

The defender explained the Blues have employed a no-nonsense policy in an effort to seal up their back line.

And that approach has been rewarded with Paul Cook’s men keeping two clean sheets on the bounce as they prepare to travel to Newport County on Boxing Day.

Some sloppy goals proved costly earlier in the campaign, after a run of four shut outs from five league games in August and September.

But Cook has been preaching a robust policy to his back four as they find a miserly touch again.

Only Luton have conceded fewer than the 20 league goals the Blues have shipped this term.

Clarke knows it’s going to have to be another safety-first approach as his side prepare to do battle with the Exiles on a dire surface on Monday.

He said: ‘Over the last two or three months the gaffer has tried to really nail down that we are defenders

‘Sometimes if it has to go, it has to go.

‘In the last two games we might have seen clearances just going out of play – and maybe not being so brave in our play.

‘It’s because we are trying to find our defensive role first and then develop that into being ball-playing centre-halves.

‘You’ve got to have a platform to work on. That’s what you have to do.

‘You have be defensive and get the structure right.

‘You have to do that before making any positive mistakes with the ball.’

Clarke is targeting the kind of run which is going to bridge the seven-point gap to the top three over the second half of the campaign.

The 20-year-old takes pride in shutting out the opposition and keeping clean sheets.

But the former Ipswich man isn’t taking a selfish approach and knows the bottom line is all about Pompey success this season.

Clarke said: ‘First of all we are defenders, so clean sheets are what we aim for.

‘But you can’t think I have done my job. That’s a selfish outlook.

‘We are a team first of all. Yes, we have kept the clean sheet but, as a team, we’d like the three points. We’re just keeping positive.

‘It’s a nice thing to look at that but it doesn’t matter how many you concede, you just want to be in the top three.

‘You can concede the most goals in the league but it’s about winning at the end of the day.

‘Hopefully, we can get on a run.

‘With the way the league is, if you can get on a run you soon find yourself in the position you want to be. That’s what we want to do.

‘Of course we still believe in automatic promotion.

‘You look at last Saturday and you can see our strengths and how dominant we are.

‘So we are looking at being in that top three as soon as possible.’