O'Keefe gets Pompey nod '“ but Close gets Walkes remit

Stuart O'Keefe was handed a first Pompey start for almost four months as Kenny Jackett reshuffled his line-up in Anton Walkes' absence.

Sunday, 15th April 2018, 6:00 pm

Yet it was Ben Close handed the responsibility of providing the crucial screen which helped the Blues claim a goalless Home Park draw.

With Walkes sidelined by a hamstring injury for at least three matches, Jackett recalled O’Keefe following his comeback from the bench at Rochdale the previous weekend.

That meant Close playing as the deep-lying midfielder in the 4-1-4-1 system taking on Plymouth on Saturday.

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It represented a different style of player in a position previously also occupied with excellent effect by Nathan Thompson in recent weeks.

But Pompey’s boss believed it was the correct call.

Jackett said: ‘It’s different days, there are times when you need a defender in there and in recent weeks that has been Anton Walkes.

‘Obviously Walkes is injured at the moment, but there are times when you need a passer in there as well.

‘On days like Saturday, on a big pitch like that, we needed a passer in front of the back four, so I picked Ben Close there.

‘Stuart O’Keefe came into midfield and he did fine – he added a lot to the group.

‘We have talked about experience before, not just Stuart but Brett (Pitman), Gareth (Evans) and Nathan Thompson, people we have missed at different stages – and how our team has suffered because of it. Having those guys back is good.

‘I decided to take Stuart off after 58 minutes because we needed more energy in midfield in a period where the opening 15 minutes of the second half Plymouth were on top of us.

‘Connor Ronan came on and is a good young player with lots of promise.’

Next Pompey head to Bradford tomorrow night in a rearranged fixture.

The Blues are currently one point adrift of the Pilgrims, who occupy the final play-off spot with four matches remaining.

However, Derek Adams’ team also have a game in hand on Pompey as the pressure of the run-in cranks up.

Jackett’s side are now six matches unbeaten. Although they have drawn successive fixtures on their travels, they have forthcoming games against play-off rivals Peterborough and Charlton.

The Blues boss added: ‘Our season is ahead of us, that’s the big thing, we have to look forward to Bradford to try to get the win we need.

‘Plymouth is not a bad point for us, we can look forward to the remaining four games and do everything we can to get the points to break into the top six, which is our aim.’