Halford reveals secrets that are central to defensive success

Greg Halford and Ricardo Rocha thwart a Middlesbrough attack
Greg Halford and Ricardo Rocha thwart a Middlesbrough attack
Christian Burgess, left, and the Pompey squad pay their respects to Cyrille Regis before Saturday's clash at Rotherham. Picture: Joe Pepler

Pompey defender pays tribute to key influence Regis

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It’s the unlikely partnership that has sewn up Pompey’s defence.

Now, Greg Halford has revealed the secrets to his link-up with Ricardo Rocha which has been key to the Blues’ charge up the table.

Pompey have kept eight clean sheets in their past nine Championship outings since Steve Cotterill paired the on-loan Wolves man with the Portuguese defender in the middle of his back-line.

Halford was shifted to the central role after largely occupying positions down the right since arriving at Fratton Park.

And Rocha was brought back into the equation after a period in which his manager had expressed reservations about his fitness.

But since being paired together in the 2-0 win at Doncaster, which started a run that saw the side break their post-war league record for minutes without conceding, they haven’t looked back.

Halford believes composure has been the key to their success, with the back four showing cool heads throughout the run.

The 26-year-old admitted he and Rocha perhaps aren’t the kind of intimidating duo who will fly into forwards with bone-crunching tackles.

There’s no doubt, though, they have created a blend which is working.

Halford played most of his debut in a central defensive role, ironically after Rocha limped off at Millwall in the 1-0 success there last October.

He feels Cotterill remembered that occasion when turning to him and his more experienced team-mate in the middle.

Halford said: ‘I slotted in at the back at Millwall for 65 minutes and did okay.

‘The manager has kept that in his head and when we were struggling for centre-backs he slotted me in there.

‘It’s stuck and me and Ricardo have a good understanding.

‘I wouldn’t say we were out-and-out defenders who fly in with tackles.

‘But we have a good understanding and do that when it needs to be done.

‘We like to play as well and composure is a massive part of it.

‘Right along the back four there is composure.

‘You could say Hermann is the worst one but even he isn’t bad!

‘We’re not just lumping balls forward and feeding off scraps but we are starting to play.

‘That has made a big difference to us.

‘The best we have played was at Bristol City recently when we really knocked it around and should have won.

‘It’s been good at the back for a while now really.

‘I’m delighted for Jamie (Ashdown) because he’s been magnificent.

‘He got a bit of stick at the beginning of the season so it’s good to see.

‘It’s good to keep the clean sheets. That’s where we have been getting the results from.’

It’s Halford’s composed play that has brought a calming air to the Pompey back line but it was his bullet throw which was the matchwinner at Leicester last week.

His jet-propelled effort caused panic in the Foxes penalty area, which David Nugent took full advantage of to score the only goal of the game.

Halford has been using the throw all season but it was only the second time he has profited with a goal after Nugent also scored against Crystal Palace last month.

The player is happy to utilise his Herculean deliveries whenever needed but bristles at the notion of being landed with a reputation for having it in his arsenal.

Halford said: ‘It’s about time we scored from one of my throws!

‘The pitch helped at Leicester and the multi-ball meant it was dry so I could get some purchase on it.

‘It caused a bit of danger and we knew the keeper was reluctant to come for crosses.

‘So we wanted to pile it on top of him and it came off.

‘It’s always been there for me but I don’t like to be pinned down to just my throw-in.

‘It always gets mentioned. I’m always the “long-throw specialist” and I don’t really like that.

‘I think I’m a good footballer and that comes first and foremost.

‘The long throw is a bonus for me.

‘It’s a good asset to have.

‘I don’t think we have used it to our advantage nearly enough this season really.

‘I don’t know what makes it different for me to able to do it and not someone else but it is definitely a useful weapon.’