Defensive metamorphosis continues for Pompey man

Dion Donohue. Picture: Joe Pepler
Dion Donohue. Picture: Joe Pepler

Jackett: Fourth place now open to Pompey

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As a central midfielder and then left-back, he rolled up his sleeves to muck into a battling rearguard display.

Alas, Joe Mattock’s stoppage-time header brought Pompey’s imperious wall crashing down in heartbreaking circumstances at Rotherham.

The defensive stuff doesn’t come naturally to Dion. He has an instinct for it, but it doesn’t come naturally like it does for Burgess or Clarke

Joe Gallen

Yet for Dion Donohue, it provided another telling demonstration of the defensive improvement gathering pace under the watchful eye of Joe Gallen.

The Blues’ assistant boss has taken the August arrival under his wing on the training ground in a bid to strengthen his all-round game.

It’s a regime which involves at least two 20-minute sessions a week, focusing on bolstering Donohue’s defensive capabilities.

The 24-year-old has served the majority of his 20 Pompey appearances at left-back following his arrival from Chesterfield.

At the Millers, he was finally handed the central midfield role he craves, although reverted to full-back on 66 minutes following the substitution of Sylvain Deslandes.

Regardless, Gallen believes the advancement in the Welshman’s defensive ability is obvious.

He said: ‘We just have to concentrate on defending with Dion because naturally he wants to go forward.

‘Once you put someone in a position where they haven’t played too many games there needs to be some extra work.

‘With Dion he has a very good left foot, he wants to go forward, but we have really worked on him passing it forward because sometimes he goes back too often and we weren’t happy with that.

‘Ultimately, though, it’s his defending which needs to improve.

‘His closing down, his winning of headers generally, winning headers at the back post when a cross comes in from the opposite side, blocking, one-on-ones to make sure no-one gets crosses in.

‘Not giving away fouls is a big thing for all defenders. Stay on your feet, try to intercept and read it – if you do then you have the ball for a counter-attack.

‘We have been working on all the defensive side with him in the knowledge he has a very good left foot and will go forward and put crosses in anyway, he can already do that.

‘It’s usually myself working with him, while bringing one of the youth-team players over to go up against him, but he has been very receptive to it and done well.

‘He understands. A 20-minute blast with him and he knows why we have to do it – he understands.’

Saturday throws up an interesting left-back selection poser for Kenny Jackett.

The Blues boss could hand a home debut to Deslandes for the visit of Shrewsbury – or reappoint Donohue to the role.

Regardless, the hard work continues on the training ground.

Gallen added: ‘Dion’s work is not something we’ve done once every two weeks, he’s got to do it a couple of times a week.

‘The defensive stuff doesn’t come naturally to him. He has an instinct for it, but it doesn’t come naturally like it does for Christian Burgess or Matt Clarke.

‘Defenders come alive, that’s their game, the ball is lost, great, let’s get a tackle in and win the ball.’