Jackett: Pompey central defenders need to raise game

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POMPEY’S central-defensive pairing have been challenged to become the best in League One.

And Kenny Jackett has tasked Matt Clarke and Christian Burgess with being a greater goalscoring threat for the Blues.

Christian Burgess, with Matt Clarke looking on.  Picture: Joe Pepler PPP-171228-115628001

Christian Burgess, with Matt Clarke looking on. Picture: Joe Pepler PPP-171228-115628001

Jackett wants to see the duo dominate more aerially and help their side become promotion contenders next season.

Wigan’s Dan Burn and Chey Dunkley along with Charlton’s Jason Pearce and Patrick Bauer were highlighted as partnerships to aspire to.

With Jack Whatmough set to be vying for a starting spot next term, Jackett has set the bar high for the pair.

The boss said: ‘I’ve been talking to Burgess and Clarke about really dominating both boxes. They need to do that.

Matt Clarke collects his Players' Player of the Season award from Brett Pitman. Picture: Joe Pepler/ PinPep PPP-180105-223147006

Matt Clarke collects his Players' Player of the Season award from Brett Pitman. Picture: Joe Pepler/ PinPep PPP-180105-223147006

‘When you look at the likes of Pearce and Bauer, there are some good centre-halves in this division. We need to be up there with them.

‘In the Charlton game, those two both dominated.

‘Bauer won headers against us. Pearce attacks the ball in both boxes.

‘For our centre-backs that’s the next challenge.

‘It’s okay being good between both boxes, that can catch the eye and it is important. But really to be promotion contenders you need to be right up there with Dunkley and Dan Burn, where they are scoring goals and saving them.

‘Those are the standards. The two boys at Charlton and Wigan are targets.

‘You have to analyse what they do and see what they do as players. You have to set your sights on being that good.

‘It’s a key area for our centre-backs. Have they scored enough goals? Have they got enough touches in the opposing box?’

Jackett’s challenge comes off the back of an outstanding season for Clarke which saw him pick up a string of plaudits, including The News/Sports Mail Player of the Season.

The 21-year-old was saluted for his displays which have seen a host of Championship and Premier League sides linked with a move for the former Ipswich man.

After also being named Pompey’s Players’ Player of the Season, Jackett highlighted the professionalism Clarke has shown to improve his game.

He added: ‘His performances have been very good, but the other players would see how hard he works and how committed he is to football.

‘It’s hard to get him out of the gym really. You give him a day off and tell him not to come in, but he’ll end up going in Roko.

‘You see his car. He says he’s not there, but we see his car there too many times! That’s how he is.

‘He genuinely works really hard and is very professional.

‘While his peers will look at his performances, they would recognise his professionalism as well.

‘For Matt, he’s to be congratulated for his performances on the pitch.

‘To get the award from your peers is a great achievement – one I’m sure he appreciates. He’s hungry to play football and do well for the club.’