Defensive duo have justified Rocha decision

Lubomir Michalik has been strong in the air for Pompey
Lubomir Michalik has been strong in the air for Pompey
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blues boss Michael Appleton believes his central defensive partnership is vindicating the decision to show Ricardo Rocha the door.

Gabor Gyepes and Lubomir Michalik have started the past seven matches together.

Last weekend’s 2-0 victory over Crewe marked their first clean sheet – and only the second for Pompey this season.

Appleton has long preached the importance of equipping his League One team with two powerful central defenders, who can dominate in the air.

It is a belief which led the Blues boss to let Fratton favourite Rocha depart the club.

The veteran was not offered a new Pompey deal this summer and is currently on trial at Leeds.

In his absence, Gyepes and Michalik have struck up a rugged partnership in the heart of the Pompey defence.

And Appleton is convinced it was the right route to follow.

He said: ‘I have been happy with them both. You only look at their age – two experienced centre halves.

‘You have got someone in Lubo, who is used to this league.

‘He has played in it for a couple of seasons now with Carlisle.

‘With Gabor, at times what he lacks in pace and mobility he brings a little bit of calmness and a touch of class. He is also very good in the air.

‘There are lots of factors why I didn’t keep Ricardo.

‘He was on decent money in the Championship and I wasn’t sure if we would be able to make him an offer he would have accepted.

‘Also a lot of balls do come into your box in this division.

‘You have to make sure you are strong enough to withstand bouts of pressure, maybe for 10 to 15 minutes at a time.

‘That might not just be from the opposition playing particularly well.

‘It might be the opposition get a free-kick 10 yards inside their own half or our half and you know the ball is going in your box.

‘Very rarely do teams play a quick free-kick and get on with it.

‘Instead of Ricardo we have Lubo, who has been in a side which has been very consistent at this level, and Gabor, who is a threat in the air.

‘You only have to see from our set plays in terms of corners and free-kicks over the last few games where the two big centre-halves have been a problem for the opposition.’

As well as the regular pairing, Appleton also has Josh Thompson in his central-defensive ranks.

But he would still love to bring another to the club – when permitted.

He added: ‘If we came out of administration tomorrow I would expect us to have four really competitive centre-halves.

‘These two have the shirt, as they say, at the minute.

‘But if there is someone out there who can make our squad stronger then I would look to do something.’