Pompey defender calls for more of the same

Ricardo Rocha
Ricardo Rocha

Pompey boss praise for riding out defensive storm

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Ricardo Rocha pointed to Pompey’s rediscovered defensive steel and said: We’ve proved we can do it.

The Portuguese centre-back was restored to the starting line-up for Saturday’s 2-0 win at Doncaster Rovers as Steve Cotterill’s men recorded their first clean sheet since December and only their fourth of the campaign.

Rocha has battled a succession of minor injuries and has been searching for full fitness for the majority of the campaign, which has limited his involvement.

But he showed how important he can be to the side with an assured display at the Keepmoat Stadium as Pompey claimed a valuable shut-out.

He said: ‘It’s massive for us. All the pressure was on the defence because we have conceded a lot of goals and not had too many clean sheets.

‘With that performance, we showed we can do it and now we need to do it more in the next few games.

‘The secret was sticking together and working together.

‘Everyone did their job very well. This time, everything was perfect.’

It would be a disservice to the rest of the side to suggest the improved defensive display was solely down to the experienced 32-year-old’s return, especially with the improved protection in front of them from the midfield.

But the ever-changing back four has certainly not helped in the quest for defensive stability, although the central partnership of Greg Halford and Rocha looked as assured as any of the seven combinations Cotterill has used this term.

Rocha said: ‘It’s always different to play with different players.

‘You have different connections with everyone – with (Ibrahima) Sonko, (Aaron) Mokoena and anyone else.

‘It was the first time I had played with Greg and it went well.

‘We need to keep doing that if we can and if the gaffer picks us to play together.

‘Communication is so important.

‘We have been talking about that a lot over the past few weeks and we knew we had to work on it.

‘It hasn’t been good for the defenders lately and it hasn’t been good for the whole team.

‘This time there was plenty of shouting and communication – not just me and Greg, but all of the lads on the pitch.

‘We know we have got the power up front to score, so it was up to us to show that we can keep clean sheets at the back as well.’

Pompey will be looking to build on their victory at Doncaster with a long-overdue home win when they host Barnsley tomorrow.

And with home fixtures against Crystal Palace, Scunthorpe and Sheffield United on the horizon, Rocha knows Pompey have an opportunity to fire themselves up the table.

He said: ‘We’ve got some very important games coming up. We were in a bad position.

‘We had a bad 10 games with results but we know we have the quality to do much better than we have been doing.’