Pompey midfielder won’t rest on his laurels

Ben Close. Picture: Joe Pepler
Ben Close. Picture: Joe Pepler
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Ben Close is determined to retain his starting berth in Pompey’s engine room.

The midfielder is enjoying his longest spell in the Blues’ line-up and is adamant there is more to come from him.

Close recorded his ninth successive League One start in Saturday’s 1-0 defeat to Bradford City.

The 20-year-old has formed a central-midfield partnership with Stuart O’Keefe since replacing fellow Pompey Academy product Adam May in the 4-1 win over Fleetwood in August.

Close wants to continue his fruitful run in Kenny Jackett’s side for the rest of the season – but knows he is the only one who can ensure that happens.

He revealed he has got to know O’Keefe’s game well, with the pair ensuring they operate smoothly together in the middle of the park.

Close said: ‘Each game is helping me and I’m learning new things all the time.

‘I’ve got to keep my place in the team now and that is purely down to me.

‘It feels great to have a run in the team.

‘There’s been a lot of hard work gone into it that has been rewarded.

‘However, this is hopefully just the start of things and I want to keep my place for the rest of the season now.

‘In midfield, you don’t want to get too square with your partner.

‘Stu and myself try to balance things.

‘One of us usually plays a little bit further forward than the other to keep that shape.

‘We don’t want to stay flat with each other, so we are not easily passed through.

‘Against Bradford, I found myself in a few more advanced positions.

‘We have balance and sometimes Stu will find himself a bit further forward – that is just part of our job.’

Close’s inclusion in Jackett’s starting line-up has limited Danny Rose’s appearances this season.

The former Northampton Town man played a key role in the Blues side that clinched the League Two title.

However, he has failed to start a league game since August’s draw at Wigan Athletic.

Nevertheless, Close is well aware of the talent Rose possesses.

The former Eastleigh loanee insisted the competition ensures he is performing to the standard that is required.

‘Rosey has been unlucky not to play this season,’ Close added.

‘He is an excellent player, as well.

‘Having someone as good as him not playing keeps you on your toes when you’re in the side because it’s not going to take much for him to come into the team.

‘I’m just trying to do as best as I can, work as hard as I can in training every week and each game and hopefully stay in the side.

‘I can’t rest on my laurels now, however. I have to keep going.

‘There is still room for improvement and definitely more to come.’