Defender out to banish Pompey promotion pain

Pompey defender Matt Clarke Picture: Joe Pepler
Pompey defender Matt Clarke Picture: Joe Pepler
Oliver Hawkins. Picture: Joe Pepler

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MATT CLARKE is focused on righting the wrong of last season’s promotion heartache.

The defender is using the pain of failing to deliver success at the first attempt with Pompey to drive their charge to League One.

Clarke admitted he thought achieving glory would be a straightforward process when he arrived on loan from Ipswich last term.

It proved anything but, as injuries struck and Paul Cook’s side faltered in the play-offs against Plymouth.

Clarke missed the final five games of last season with a groin problem and was powerless to help his team-mates.

Now, with his side in a strong position, the 20-year-old is dreaming of putting that right.

Clarke said: ‘When I first came down here on loan you almost feel it’s going to be easy, but I soon learnt it’s not easy by any stretch of the imagination. Hopefully, we can push and do it this year.

‘Last season I missed the last five games and then the play-offs.

‘I was part of a team which did all the hard work and then had to watch them lose. It was heartbreaking. It was one of those days.

‘At the moment we are in a great place and fancy ourselves to do it. I think we can do it, you almost expect it.

‘It’s hard to put a figure on the number of points you need, so we take every game as it is and, hopefully, before we know it we are across the line.

‘When we have won on a Saturday it is sometimes nice to look at the league table, but you can’t get carried away.

‘You have to take confidence from it but there is still a lot of work to do.

‘Promotion is always there because it’s the end goal and you have to have a goal, there’s no point beating about the bush – we want to get promotion.

‘You have got to look at each game as it comes because if we start trying to look at the bigger picture we’ll maybe take our eye off the job in hand, which is Hartlepool.

‘The dreams of a footballer is promotion and success.’

Pompey go in search of their 19th clean sheet of the campaign today at the Pools.

That represents a pleasing statistic for Clarke who feels a settled defensive formula has contributed to that record.

He added: ‘Eighteen clean sheets is pleasing but it’s all part of the team.

‘If you draw every game 0-0 we would rather win 3-2, it’s looking at the bigger picture really. But it is obviously pleasing as a defensive unit to get those clean sheets.

‘It’s a whole-team effort.

‘From the front we press the ball well, we don’t give any teams a chance, and when we do get the ball we don’t give it back to them straightaway.

‘It’s definitely not just down to us defensive players.

‘When you play with people week in, week out, you learn what they are going to do and are in a position where you know what each others’ next move is going to be.’