Knight: Pinpointing Pompey defensive problems not difficult

Matt Clarke and Christian Burgess were a key central-defensive partnership for Pompey last season Picture: Joe Pepler
Matt Clarke and Christian Burgess were a key central-defensive partnership for Pompey last season Picture: Joe Pepler
Ben Close battles for possession against Southend.

O'Keefe impressed with Pompey rival

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The Fratton faithful are well aware there are issues defensively for Pompey at present.

We all know things have to change – and clearly there is time to do that.

However, the defensive problems for Paul Cook have come centrally and that specifically needs to be addressed.

If you break down the goals, those that stick out for me involve the Blackpool, Doncaster, Accrington and Notts County matches.

There have been occasions when we haven’t dealt with the first ball into the box, whether a free-kick or a pass, and it has either not been cleared with distance or players haven’t reacted.

Predominantly, that has involved the centre of defence.

Obviously once the ball drops everybody is a defender, but before then there needs to be an improvement.

In fairness to Cook, injuries to Matt Clarke have meant we haven’t been able to get a stable centre-half pairing running.

That is the basis of creating an understanding, familiarity, a partnership operating week in, week out alongside each other.

Christian Burgess and Clarke played alongside each other last season on occasions, but injury has restricted them this term.

That is the frustrating thing for the manager and must leave him scratching his head.

For me, David Forde has been an improvement, no doubt about that, despite a little dip he is now over.

Whether you have played one game or 1,000, sometimes you get involved in stuff in an attempt to clear up in areas you wouldn’t normally go near – and start making errors as a result.

We’ve all done it, I’m not giving it holier than thou. Forde dominates his area superbly, while I stuck on my line and worked off my strengths of reflexes and shot stopping.

I loved Jim Smith so much – he told me to stop the shots and let my centre-halves head the ball. When the ball came into the box I would shout ‘All the best’ to Andy Awford and Kit Symons rather than ‘Keeper’s’!

Goals are also not coming from wide areas either, so I wouldn’t blame the full-backs.

There were a couple of breaks from Notts County’s Jonathan Forte, but he didn’t deliver anything from that and I felt Gareth Evans dealt with it okay.

He has been fine, it’s not his position but you cannot fault him for anything.

Paul Cook must get that defensive partnership right – and I’m not saying who it should be.

But the chosen pair need a period of time together to show they can perform.