Pompey boss lifts lid on shock striker omission

Izale McLeod watches from the bench
Izale McLeod watches from the bench
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Guy Whittingham has revealed Izale McLeod’s Crawley omission was down to tactical reasons rather than a sign he is heading out of Fratton Park.

The Blues’ top scorer was yesterday dropped from the side for the first time this season.

Paul Benson was instead preferred in the 2-1 defeat to the Reds.

The on-loan striker netted Pompey’s only goal, with McLeod appearing as a 74th-minute substitute.

McLeod has already been linked with a move to Swindon and is expected to attract plenty of interest when the transfer window re-opens.

Whittingham is adamant the former Barnet man has not told him of any intent to quit, though.

And the caretaker boss revealed the decision to axe McLeod after 25 successive starts was down to a wish to operate with a 4-3-3.

He said: ‘Izale has done a fantastic job for us when he has played in that wide area.

‘We just thought yesterday that Paul Benson was the right way to go and felt Mendez-Laing might create something for us.

‘Darel Russell and Brian Howard have got themselves forward well and that is what we were looking for this time.

‘We did bring Izale on to try to help us in the 4-4-2 situation.

‘He is not a wide man, it is a special position. People think you can play him all over the place but we want players playing where they should be playing.

‘Although Izale wasn’t picked up front yesterday – we felt the game was right for Paul Benson to play in that position.

‘Come Yeovil we will reassess.

‘Benson is a bit more combative in the air, he is better coming to the ball.

‘Whereas, it is no secret Izale is one of those who you want to put in a ball for him to run on to.’

Regardless of yesterday’s reasons, there is growing uncertainty McLeod will stay at Fratton Park.

His contract runs out on January 16, along with seven other players.

With 11 goals to his name he will attract other clubs and arguably will be Pompey’s most coveted player next month.

Certainly Whittingham is anticipating plenty of interest in the striker. He added: ‘Izale has not said anything at all that he could be going.

‘Of course I am expecting interest, though.

‘He’s our top scorer with 11 goals this season and up among the highest in the league.

‘I would be interested in him if I was somewhere else.

‘Especially as he’s a free agent.

‘All players want is a bit of security and at the moment this football club cannot offer it.

‘It can offer great fans, great support, what I think is a good coaching side of things with top staff.

‘What we cannot offer them – if they are looking for it – is security and for that reason some could go next month.’