Back home '“ but Pompey defender would switch back

Injuries forced his relocation to left-back '“ before injuries forced his return.

Tuesday, 12th December 2017, 5:00 pm
Matt Clarke has found himself back in familiar surroundings in the centre of defence in recent weeks  Picture: Joe Pepler
Matt Clarke has found himself back in familiar surroundings in the centre of defence in recent weeks Picture: Joe Pepler

Matt Clarke is back in familiar defensive surrounds, clutching three clean sheets and a trio of victories.

Nonetheless, the 21-year-old recently demonstrated his versatility in a surprise three-game stint as a makeshift Pompey full-back.

Oli Hawkins’ hamstring problem ensured Clarke has been in his central-defensive role in recent matches.

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Meanwhile, Brandon Haunstrup is growing increasingly more comfortable in League One football as a more conventional left-back.

Clarke now occupies his natural habitat alongside Christian Burgess in a partnership not yet breached since their reunion.

But the player who made his Ipswich Town debut at left-back would have no qualms about again serving as a stand-in should the Blues need arise.

‘I’ve played a lot more and am a lot more experienced at centre-back, so I guess I am more comfortable there,’ said Clarke.

‘But I don’t mind left-back, I am happy to play anywhere. If you get put in a place, you need to get your head around it and try to do the best you can for the team.

‘When I was aged 13-14 with Ipswich’s academy I played a bit at left-back as well as centre-half, so it’s a position I am half-familiar with.

‘I also made my debut in the Capital One Cup for Ipswich there. Mick McCarthy asked if I would be comfortable and I replied I’d be happy to play there.

‘Some people may think the roles are very similar because they are in defence, but that’s not the case.

‘There’s different positions you take up, the different positions you end up on the ball, while the options you have are very different.

‘It takes a bit of adapting, you learn every time you play there to help improve yourself. But I would definitely play it again if asked.’

Such has been Haunstrup’s form since his reacquaintance with the first team, it is difficult to see Clarke returning to left-back any time soon.

In the meantime, successive shut-outs have been registered against Plymouth, Northampton and, on Saturday, Charlton.

Not that it should be overlooked that Clarke featured at left-back in the 1-0 victory over Southend last month.

And, of course, the role of a full-back in Kenny Jackett’s set-up differs considerably to that in the Paul Cook years.

Clarke added: ‘Every manager has their styles and how they use their full-backs.

‘With Paul Cook it was very high and wide. This year it is a bit more compact, you have to adapt to the manager.

‘Our manager wants to defend first and foremost. It isn’t a no-attack policy, but they are more natural wide man and you don’t overlap. It is more a supporting role rather than dominant with you putting crosses in.

‘Last year Kyle Bennett came very narrow, which gave Enda (Stevens) the licence to bomb on and get high and wide.

‘When I’ve recently played I was supporting from deep. Although, if the ball comes to you and the opportunity is there, you have to put the crosses in.’