Pompey friendliesÂ hintÂ at Clarke's defensive partner
Kenny Jackett's fine-tuning is almost complete as pre-season nearsÂ closure.
AndÂ Pompey's friendly programmeÂ increasingly indicates Jack Whatmough is positioned as Matt Clarke's preferred defensive partner.
The pair were matched in the centre of defence once more for Saturday's 2-0 success at Swindon.
It represents successive first-team games that Jackett has selected Whatmough alongside the certainty of Clarke.
Based on such decisions, itÂ suggests Christian Burgess has slipped behind in the battle for a key central role.
The 26-year-old came off the bench to replace Whatmough at Stevenage, while he turned out for a Pompey XI on duty at Gosport last week.
The situation will become much clearer today, with the Blues sending teams to Brighton and Bognor over the day's duration.
And Jackett admittedÂ the three-way fight is a tight one.
Pompey's boss said: '˜It's close between all of those.
'˜You are looking at three recognised centre-backs in Whatmough, Clarke and Burgess '“ it's quite good competition at the moment between all three and close as well, very close.
'˜I have been pleased with all of them so far, the attitude they have come back with and match fitness.
'˜They're our three recognised centre-halves, with two other players also capable of playing there, so I do think we are quite well-covered in that position.
'˜If you are asking about centre-halves so far, it has beenÂ combinations of those three andÂ it's close between those three.
'˜We also have Tom Naylor, who has experience of playing there, and Anton Walkes can play there, too.
'˜They are our options for our centre-back positions.'
Burgess and Clarke started the Blues'Â opening summer friendliesÂ against Cork City and the Hawks.
Instead, Whatmough appeared among the 11 substitutes introduced at half-time in both fixtures.
Since then the 21-year-oldÂ has replaced Burgess in the starting XI against Stevenage and now Swindon, helping keep a clean sheet in the latter.
Whatmough had previously dislodged an out-of-sorts Burgess for seven matches at the end of last season, only to suffer injury.
That prompted Burgess'Â recall in the final two games.
Have you read?