Enda praise for Pompey central figures

Matt Clarke, left, and Christian Burgess   Picture: Joe Pepler
Matt Clarke, left, and Christian Burgess Picture: Joe Pepler
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Enda Stevens has been a crucial cog in League Two’s most miserly defence.

But he is quick to credit the centre-half pairing who provide the rock behind such an impressive statistic.

We have the freedom to roam, but must be careful not to get too advanced at times and expose ourselves to the counter

Enda Stevens

Saturday’s 2-0 victory over Accrington may not have been Pompey’s finest display, yet it represented a crucial three points.

Tonight they host Blackpool, with Paul Cook’s side striving for back-to-back wins in the battle for the automatic promotion spots.

While scoring has been a concern, the Blues possess the sixth-best defensive record outside the Premier League.

A tally of 28 goal conceded is unequalled in League Two, with Christian Burgess and Matt Clarke an ongoing outstanding presence.

Left-back Stevens has missed just one league fixture this season and added his own mettle to the solid back four.

But he has plenty of praise for the double act who regularly line up to his right in Cook’s defensive unit.

Stevens said: ‘The pair of them give great balance, they understand their jobs and are very composed.

‘It’s important they are comfortable being left two versus two at times, that doesn’t worry them, which allows the full-backs to go forwards.

‘Great credit to them, they have been excellent and that breeds confidence in players around them.

‘With myself and Gaz (Evans), we have the licence to go forward and not worry about breakaways, especially with Michael Doyle and Amine Linganzi also in front of them.

‘We have the freedom to roam, but must be careful not to get too advanced at times and expose ourselves to the counter.

‘We’ve been suspect to teams catching us on the break before, which is another reason why it’s important your centre-halves can cope with two versus two when asked.

‘But our defensive record stands up to anyone’s, so we must be doing something right.

‘Not that we are thinking about records, we must keep it going, not conceding first and getting us victories.’

Luton and Blackpool may have also won at the weekend but, having conceded in those results, it ensures Pompey’s defensive return is unparalleled in League Two.

Bolton and Newcastle (23) presently possess the best defensive records outside the Premier League.

They are followed by Championship teams Brighton (26) and Derby (25), with League One Bradford on 27.

Then come the Blues, with David Forde’s 12 league clean sheets the cornerstone of an excellent defensive record by mid-February. Yet the primary target remains winning automatic promotion.

Stevens added: ‘Your luck changes over the course of the season, we’ve had our bit of bad luck and hopefully can now get going.

‘The last two goals conceded were a bit spawny, albeit two good finishes to be fair, so hopefully we will get that little luck from the bounce of the ball now.

‘I enjoy playing in this team, I get the ball a lot, that is what I want as a footballer, and hopefully we can go up.’