Appy confident Blues have finally found their spine

New Pompey centre-half Lubomir Michalik
New Pompey centre-half Lubomir Michalik
Pompey defender Jack Whatmough Picture: Joe Pepler

Defender setback – but Pompey boss sees positives

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Michael Appleton believes he has finally established Pompey’s defensive spine.

Lubomir Michalik and Gabor Gyepes were selected together in the centre of defence for the first time against Swindon on Tuesday night.

They represented the 10th different centre-half partnership to have featured for the Blues in nine matches this season.

The experienced duo could not prevent Pompey slumping to a 2-1 defeat – the third in succession at Fratton Park in the league.

Nonetheless, Appleton saw more than enough to convince him Michalik and Gyepes will be his preferred central-defensive partnership.

And he is banking on the pair providing the crucial stability his side desperately needs in the battle to climb the League One table.

‘The pair of them were up against some good, good centre-forwards on Tuesday night, let’s not beat around the bush,’ said Appleton.

‘Swindon’s strikers are up there with anything in the division and I thought they handled them reasonably well.

‘It fills me with a bit of confidence that they are going to be around to make us a hard team to beat.

‘Gyepes had one training session before that game after injury, while Lubomir had only ever trained with us twice, that is all. That has been the story of our season.

‘But I thought they were fine and would like to think they will be the partnership from now on.

‘I am going to hope and keep my fingers crossed they are still a pairing in five to six games time and, if that is the case, then that will be a real comfort for me knowing I’ve had that time with the same centre-half pairing.

‘They are solid enough, they will go and win their headers and will compete.

‘People may say they lack a little bit of mobility but I think they’ve got enough experience to deal with that.

‘Okay, they are going to take time to gel. They have only played with each other two or three days.

‘But, touch wood, if they can keep fit and healthy and get up to match base over five or six games that can benefit us.’

The centre-half position has become something of a jinx for Appleton this season.

Ashley Westwood damaged ankle ligaments on his debut against Plymouth.

Stand-in Sam Magri left for QPR, while Alex Grant, who partnered both in that Capital One Cup match, is currently out with a knee injury.

Paul Connolly’s loan spell from Leeds was not renewed after he picked up a groin problem.

In addition, Kevin Long is to return to Burnley after suffering a back injury.

He also served a one-match ban following his sending off at Carlisle.

Finally, Gyepes damaged his left ankle on his debut against Crawley, yet returned two weeks ahead of schedule to feature against Swindon.

Appleton added: ‘We’ve had problems in that position with a lot of injuries.

‘It is where we are, though. We’re in administration and can only have 20 players.

‘We’ve only got a small budget to work from, which everyone knows.

‘We’ll carry on, though.’