LEAM RICHARDSON is convinced Matt Clarke can develop into ‘one of the best around’ as the youngster continues to flourish.
The 20-year-old turned in a man-of-the-match performance as Pompey yesterday saw off Luton with a 1-0 victory.
It was Christian Burgess who settled the Fratton Park contest with a decisive 31st-minute header from Carl Baker’s free-kick.
However, central defensive partner Clarke was the Blues’ outstanding performer, particularly during a testing second half.
While Paul Cook’s men dominated the opening 45 minutes, they were put under severe pressure after the break.
Yet they stood firm to record a fourth clean sheet in the last five games.
Clarke was at the very heart of their latest shut-out – and Richardson was glowing in his assessment.
Pompey’s assistant manager said: ‘Matt Clarke didn’t put a foot wrong all game.
‘I don’t like to pick out individuals, but when you are a tower of strength – like he was yesterday – I think you must mention it.
‘Also there was Burge and the performance of the side out of possession, while the lads defended from the front.
‘That’s why we brought Matt in, though.
‘Obviously Adam Webster went the other way to Ipswich, who is also a top, young centre-half, but we felt we could develop Matt as well.
‘When he is playing every week he is learning, he is learning every day off the manager, myself and playing in front of such fantastic fans, which won’t harm his development.
‘He’s a young kid, only 20, who has already played a lot of games and looks like a man.
‘Give him another five years experience and, in my opinion, he will be one of the best around.
‘People questioned whether this year we needed experienced centre-halves, but we felt with David Forde as an experienced keeper behind them it could progress their learning and understanding of the game.’
Since December, the Blues have recorded four clean sheets, with the 3-2 victory at Newport County the only time they have conceded.
In total, Cook’s troops have this season 11 clean sheets in 24 League Two matches.
And it’s a haul which continues to impress Richardson.
He added: ‘That’s 11 clean sheets now, they work hard at it, they really pride themselves on picking them up.
‘If we can do that in the second half of the season then we will be close.
‘Forde probably had one shot to deal with yesterday, which was when Danny Hylton went through and tried to chip the keeper.
‘Apart from that, we dealt with everything Luton threw at us, the lads coped with it.’