Close: I’ve been working hard for Pompey starting berth

Ben Close. Picture: Joe Pepler
Ben Close. Picture: Joe Pepler
Joe Pigott celebrates Southend's winner against Pompey in League Two. Picture: Joe Pepler

Southend’s sterling record in November ahead of Pompey clash

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Ben Close has had to remain patient to record his first League One start.

He’s been working hard in training to impress – and got his reward on Saturday.

Close was the only change in Kenny Jackett’s team in their 4-1 romp against Fleetwood.

The academy product came in for Adam May – who was left out of the match-day squad.

It was 497 days since Close, 21, made a Football League start which was in a 2-1 defeat home defeat to Northampton on May 7, 2016 in League Two.

There have been appearances in cup competitions and a stint on loan at Eastleigh, as well as coming off the bench twice in League One this season.

After biding his time, Close was entrusted with a starting berth in Pompey’s engine room against the Trawlermen and produced an eye-catching performance.

Close revealed he has been giving 100 per cent in every training session to ensure he was making Jackett aware of the ability he possesses.

He said: ‘I had a good feeling I was going to be starting on Friday then found out on Saturday.

‘Despite coming on at Northampton, I didn’t get a feel for the side until we got closer to the game.

‘But as a player you always need to be ready and available to play.

‘Players can get injured in warm-ups and you’ve got to make sure you can take that chance.

‘I’ve been working hard in training.

‘I will always give 100 per cent, even if I don’t find myself in the team.

‘There’s even more reason to impress the manager and take your chance if you’re not in the side.

‘It’s now up to the manager to see if I’ll keep my place.

‘We’ll have to see but I’m delighted to have played 90 minutes and pick up a great result.’

Pompey bounced back to winning ways with a superb second-half performance against Fleetwood after suffering midweek defeat at Northampton.

There was a brief period when the game could have gone either way, however.

Devante Cole fired home a rasping volley past a helpless Luke McGee on 52 minutes to cancel out Brett Pitman’s first-half strike.

But a double from Jamal Lowe and a superb second from Pitman ensured Pompey picked up all three points.

Close admitted he struggled physically early on but felt he grew into the game.

The midfielder added: ‘Physically, it took me a short while to get up to the pace of the game.

‘Technically I’m always confident about my game but sometimes you think about the fact you haven’t played 90 minutes for a long time.

‘In the first 20 minutes we were wary of playing out in the wrong areas.

‘In certain games you have to be wary and sensible, especially coming off a disappointing result in the week at Northampton.

‘Fleetwood were physical in some areas and had good technical players in other areas. The second half showed that.

‘They had a really good spell and it was looking a little bit ominous.

‘But the second goal for us was massive and it was a great win.’