Jackett lays down goal challenge to Portsmouth defender

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Matt Clarke has been challenged to increase his Pompey goal threat.

Kenny Jackett believes the Blues defender can terrorise League One defences this term.

Pompey's Matt Clarke has been challenged to keep the goals coming. Picture: Joe Pepler

Pompey's Matt Clarke has been challenged to keep the goals coming. Picture: Joe Pepler

There’s already been signs of that, with Clarke helping himself to two goals so far for the League One leaders.

The most recent effort highlighted the 22-year-old’s attacking prowess with a finish of real aplomb in the 3-1 win at Rochdale.

And Clarke’s ability to step forward with the ball has been clear again in the campaign to date, and another obvious string to his attacking bow.

Jackett feels one of his prized assets has it in his locker to finish the season with an impressive goal return.

He pinpointed Blackburn defender Charlie Mulgrew’s 14-goal return last season as evidence of what a defender can achieve in the third tier.

The manager said: ‘Matt’s one of the centre-backs who’s capable of a good goals total.

‘It’s not everything we stress but it could make a big difference.

‘There was a different type of goal for Clarkey at Rochdale where he’s competed for a loose ball, picked it up, side-stepped Wilbraham and hit it well.

‘He got his head down, put his foot through it and the keeper had no chance.

‘It was a really good bit of composure and was pleasing.‘If you look at Mulgrew last season, he scored 14.

‘That’s some total from a centre-back, even if he was on free-kicks.

‘Matt driving out with the ball at the right time is something we work on.

‘We encourage him to do that at the right time and have other people cover for him.’

As well as Clarke’s threat, Jackett feels his team should be upping their set-piece danger from other areas of his side.

Pompey have scored four goals from corners this term, with Clarke’s two finishes (Gillingham in the Checkatrade Trophy and Rochdale) supplemented by Jamal Lowe against Oxford and Christian Burgess’ AFC Wimbledon header in the Carabao Cup.

Free-kicks have led to just a single goal, as Craig MacGillivray’s long ball forward at Bristol Rovers ended with Gareth Evans applying a finish.

They are numbers Jackett wants to better with Pompey’s set-piece return below the norm, according to their manager.

Jackett added: ‘We get quite a lot of first touches with Christian and obviously Matt.

‘Probably too many went over the bar last season when we were in good positions.

‘We talked about our centre-backs and Oli Hawkins when he plays getting over the ball.

‘We need to knock it down in the area and make sure we give other people a chance to get on the end of the ball.

‘We seem to have had a spell of a good delivery, getting the first touch and putting it over the bar.

‘It’s something we’ve highlighted and we want to be on.

‘Our two young centre-backs are both dangerous enough to score.

‘We’ve talked about it and we do feel we have enough power from set-pieces.

‘There’s Tom Naylor as well, who’s had a few chances.

‘We’ve got some decent power.

‘Around a third of all goals are scored from set-pieces.

‘That’s both for and against at any level. You’d be a fool to ignore that as a coach.’