Pompey midfield battle is showing way

Stuart O'Keefe earned a recall to the Pompey starting XI for yesterday's Checkatrade Trophy win against Northampton Picture: Joe Pepler
Stuart O'Keefe earned a recall to the Pompey starting XI for yesterday's Checkatrade Trophy win against Northampton Picture: Joe Pepler
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KENNY JACKETT welcomed the battle for midfield starting spots at Pompey.

The Blues boss believes the level of competition being witnessed in the middle of the park is what’s needed for his side to become League One contenders.

There’s been some lively sparring for a starting berth in the campaign to date for Pompey’s midfielders.

Danny Rose, Adam May, Ben Close and Stuart O’Keefe have been the quartet vying for the two holding roles.

None of the players have nailed down a berth, with the preferred pairing ebbing and flowing through the campaign.

Jackett, who started with Rose and O’Keefe for yesterday’s Checkatrade Trophy clash with Northampton, feels that needs to be replicated all over the pitch.

He said: ‘Danny Rose has done very well and shown good leadership, which I’ve been very pleased with.

‘It’s a compliment to them that Close and Rose have kept O’Keefe out.

‘To be a successful club that’s’ what you need.

‘To be a successful club you need O’Keefe three and Adam May four.

‘You need that type of push for two positions if we’re going to be successful. That type of competition and cover is what’s needed.

‘If you’re going to lose your place for whatever, and in O’Keefe’s case it was suspension, someone is going to come in and hold on to the shirt.

‘That’s the ideal thing. It produces an edge to performances which can create wins.

‘Attitude and body language are important things. They’re important things to me.

‘Attitude and body language right down to our subs being ready, hungry and showing the right application when they come on.

‘It’s being professional and that can get the maximum out of the group of players you have.’

With O’Keefe and Rose left-footed and May and Close favouring their right, Jackett stated his preference would be to have balance to his midfield pairing – but it’s at the back he feels it’s key.

He added: ‘If possible you’d do that.

‘The big one for me is left-back and left centre-back.

‘If you have your left-footers there’s a lot of natural football there.

‘If you’ve got the same in midfield having the same is great.

‘It’s balance, that commonsense. It’s the right passes forward and options.

‘Some players playing on the wrong side are very good and almost have more options because of it. There’s not many.

‘It’s one of those where a lot of players fancy themselves on the other side but can’t quite deliver it.

‘That’s particularly wide men who think about cutting in and scoring, rather than going on outside and providing. It’s a slightly selfish thing.

‘But balance, distribution of left-footers and right, even down to good service from set-pieces.

‘Last weekend we saw Chaplin and Naismith who are both very, very strong on their left foot.

‘For Gareth Evans’ chance, where the keeper made a great save, Conor breaking down the left side and putting the ball across goal quite naturally was hard to defend against.’