Gaffer: Accrington represent Portsmouth’s toughest test yet

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Gaffer for a Day Richard Brook, aged 45 from Roslin, Midlothian, previews Pompey’s trip to Accrington.

I think this is the toughest game of the season so far, Accrington have surprised a lot of people.

Richard Brook would like to see Anton Walkes in a midfield role against Accrington. Picture: Joe Pepler

Richard Brook would like to see Anton Walkes in a midfield role against Accrington. Picture: Joe Pepler

With them getting thumped 4-1 at Luton on Tuesday night, there will be motivation to improve against us on home turf.

It’s a tough one on a small ground and they will be up for it. I’ve never seen us win there, either, watching the 2-2 draw under Guy Whittingham and then a 1-0 defeat in the Paul Cook title-winning season.
Kenny Jackett must also make enforced changes, with Tom Naylor suspended and Dion Donohue injured, so I’d like to push Anton Walkes into midfield and recall Ben Close.

There is the option to bring Ben Thompson back into a holding-midfield two, but I prefer him further forward, and he certainly has proven his effectiveness in the last couple of games.

Naylor is a loss, though. He has quietly gone about his business, which I like, and we’ve been missing someone like that since Michael Doyle. It was a shrewd move by Jackett to recruit him.

Walkes can instead give us that bite, although, admittedly, he’s not a straight swap. Looking at the options, however, he is probably the only other player who can put his foot in during a midfield role.

Close is more cultured, while Danny Rose was so far off the pace at Blackpool earlier in the season it was untrue. I would put Rose on the bench as back-up, with Walkes having a bit more steel than the options at the moment.

Up front, I’d stick with Oli Hawkins. I can see why Jackett likes that formation at the moment – and Hawkins’ hold-up play is impressive. He can bring other people into play and is the man in form with two goals in successive matches.

As a team, we counter-attack very well away from home and, whereas for many years we watched Pompey in hope rather than expectation, it hasn’t been like that in recent seasons.

I think automatic promotion can be achieved this year, with no Wigan or Blackburn in the league to trouble us. It will definitely be disappointing if we don’t get into the play-offs – automatic is there for the taking.

Pompey (4-2-3-1): MacGillivray, Nathan Thompson, Whatmough, Clarke, Brown, Walkes, Close, Lowe, Ben Thompson, Curtis, Hawkins.