Pompey boss lifts lid on Close's recall
Kenny Jackett admitted the time was right to take Adam May out of the first-team spotlight.
And he was impressed with the contribution of replacement Ben Close.
May was left out of the Blues’ squad against Fleetwood having featured in the last eight line-ups.
For Close, it represented a prized first league start since May 2016 as he strives to establish himself.
The youngster certainly caught the eye, retaining the ball excellently to dictate Pompey from midfield.
The Blues ran out 4-1 winners over the Cod Army following a superb second-half display.
And Jackett explained the reasoning for the sole change to the side which lost at Northampton in the week.
He said: ‘I felt that Adam was due a rest out of it, it will do him good.
‘He’s had six successive league games plus two cup games, and it will have done him good to play in those games, come out, watch, and then go in again.
‘Ben Close has been pushing, with a couple of good substitute appearances, so it was the right time for Adam to come out of the team, to draw breath and then go again.’
Close hasn’t started successive league games for Pompey since February 2016, yet now has his opportunity.
The Blues’ next fixture is a trip to Scunthorpe on Saturday and, considering the youngster’s Fleetwood performance, he can be expected to again play.
Certainly the ex-Eastleigh loanee has required to be patient for Fratton opportunities, irrespective of 32 appearances.
Yet he has emerged ahead of Danny Rose and recent recruit Dion Donohue to join Stuart O’Keefe in the centre of midfield.
And Jackett spoke of his admiration for Close’s performance upon his recall to the starting line-up.
Pompey’s boss added: ‘Ben grew as the game went on.
‘He was a little bit nervous in the first half and got lost on the ball once or twice, but the team needs a player like him who can make it play in front of the back four – and his type of game is needed by us.
‘He has to build on Saturday, he will have confidence from that. His performance grew as the game went on.’
Close signed a new 12-month contract during the summer as he strengthened his resolve to break into the team at his home-town club.
He has since featured in five of Jackett’s 10 matches in charge, including a substitute replacement for May at Sixfields.
Meanwhile, Rose was left out of a fourth successive squad on Saturday.
– NEIL ALLEN