Midfielder believes he can take on mantle from key Portsmouth man’s exit

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Ben Close is adamant he can deliver the form to fill the void left by Ben Thompson’s Pompey exit.

Close turned in an excellent display as the Blues picked up a 1-1 draw at in-form Plymouth on Saturday.

Pompey's Ben Close celebrates his goal against Plymouth. Photo by Joe Pepler

Pompey's Ben Close celebrates his goal against Plymouth. Photo by Joe Pepler

The Southsea man put his team in front with a well-taken 56th-minute strike, before Graham Carey levelled with a superb free-kick 20 minutes from time.

Close showed his growing influence as he formed an effective partnership with Bryn Morris, as he made his third successive start since returning from injury.

The loss of Thompson since his return to Millwall has been a big blow for Kenny Jackett’s side as their form stutters.

But Close is confident he can step up after his exit and play an influential role through the run-in to the season.

He said: ‘When he was playing here the team was playing well, but we’ve recently lost Ben.

‘We also lost Oli Hawkins and Nathan Thompson to injury.

‘When you take important players out of the team you are going to miss them.

‘It’s been hard to keep performances high and the results coming.

‘The team is settled again now, though.

‘We’ve brought Bryn in and Nayls has been excellent in there.

‘So we’ve got competition in there and quality,

‘There’s people returning from injury and there’s new additions.

‘I think that can only be good news for the club,

‘Trying to impress is what I’ve needed to do and what I’ve tried to do since I came back in the team.

‘I’ve had three (successive) starts now and I feel I’m getting fitter and that match fitness is there.

‘The sharpness is coming back and I’m now looking forward to the rest of the season,’

The Plymouth draw extends Pompey’s winless run in the league to five games with Luton opening up a nine-point gap at the top of the table.

Sunderland can leapfrog Jackett’s men tomorrow as they entertain Blackpool at the Stadium of Light.

Close feels his side have to concentrate on their own form, however, but felt there was enough in their Plymouth display to suggest they are turning the corner.

He added: ‘Ideally we want more of the ball but that’s now always the way it works in this league, especially when you come to a place like Plymouth.

‘The pitch is good and they are a passing team, but at times we did take control of the game.

‘We snuffed our their attacks and sometimes it was a patient build-up, sometimes it was a quick counter-attack.

‘We need to be able to do both. We need to control games and we need to counter.

‘We just want to win now. We want to focus on our own performances.

‘Doncaster was a game we could’ve won and this was an improved performance.

‘We want a little bit of luck and a little bit of quality. There’s positives to take and we have confidence moving forward.’