Pompey friendlies hint at Clarke's defensive partner

Kenny Jackett's fine-tuning is almost complete as pre-season nears closure.

Tuesday, 24th July 2018, 7:54 am
Updated Tuesday, 24th July 2018, 9:04 am
Jack Whatmough has started Pompey's past two friendlies

And Pompey's friendly programme 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.

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Jack Whatmough has started Pompey's past two friendlies

Based on such decisions, it 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 admitted the three-way fight is a tight one.

Christian Burgess in action against the Hawks Picture: Neil Marshall

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 been combinations of those three and 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' opening summer friendlies 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-old 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' recall in the final two games.

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