BEN CLOSE is fired up to maintain his place in Pompey’s play-off charge.
The home-grown midfielder has spoken of his delight at emerging as a central figure in the Blues’ bid to finish in the top six.
And now the Southsea talent is determined to fend off the late-season suitors for his place in Kenny Jackett’s starting line-up.
Close impressed in the middle of the park as title-chasing Wigan were put to the sword at Fratton Park on Monday.
That was his 38th appearance this term, with the 21-year-old in the midst of an unbroken run of 18 starts.
Danny Rose, Dion Donohue, Nathan Thompson, Adam May, Gareth Evans and Anton Walkes have all been utilised with Close in that period.
Stuart O’Keefe is also back in contention after five months out with a groin injury and is now vying for playing time.
But Close is hungry to continue the form which has seen him grow into an important part of Jackett’s plans.
He said: ‘I know it’s a lot of games (in succession) now and I’m trying to make sure I keep my place for the next.
‘That’s what I’ve been lucky enough to do.
‘I’m really enjoying my football and as long as we’re winning it’s easy.
‘It’s when you’re in a bad run you have to show your spirit and mental toughness.
‘We’ve come out of the bad run this year and hopefully that’s it done now.
‘I’m the one staying there at the moment and I’m obviously buzzing with that.
‘I’m really happy I’ve been able to keep my place for that long.
‘I can’t just keep looking at it, though. I need to focus on the next game and keeping my space for the following week.’
Close’s confidence reflects the belief coursing through Pompey’s camp as they get set to travel to Rochdale this weekend.
Jackett’s men will look to make it five wins on the bounce at Spotland against a side battling for survival.
Close explained Pompey are making the trip to the north west with conviction about what can be achieved this season.
He said: ‘Against Wigan, everyone played a part in the win.
‘That’s what we have to do to go for this promotion again.
‘We are showing a good spirit. We’re flying, confident and want to keep it going.
‘It’s there for us. There are teams in form we’ve still got to play. Charlton are in excellent form and that will be a massive game but we’re doing well and are confident.
‘Winning in games like the Wigan match when you’ve worked hard really lifts you.
‘Winning games in quick succession only gives you more confidence. We’re going to be looking to maintain that moving forward as well now.
‘It does feel a bit like last year but I’m not going to compare to that because that was something special.
‘We just need to look at the next one and do it again. It’s about looking at the next one and seeing where it takes us.’