Pompey pair scrap it out for centre-half spot

Matt Clarke Picture: Joe Pepler
Matt Clarke Picture: Joe Pepler
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Matt Clarke and Nathan Thompson are vying to return to the centre of Pompey’s defence against Plymouth.

With Christian Burgess missing through a one-game ban, the duo are scrapping it out to partner Oli Hawkins on Saturday.

Nathan Thompson

Nathan Thompson

Clarke represents the obvious choice, although would have to switch from left-back.

That would necessitate either Dion Donohue or Brandon Haunstrup being recalled to the full-back berth he has recently occupied.

But Kenny Jackett is also considering Thompson as an option, despite preferring the summer arrival at right-back.

The 27-year-old has featured twice for the Blues at centre-half, most recently the Checkatrade Trophy win at Charlton.

That’s his next challenge, to be like Close and be a fixture

Kenny Jackett

And Pompey’s boss is mulling over his preference.

Jackett said: ‘The options for Saturday are Hawkins, Clarke and Thompson.

‘Thompson has played well at full-back when he’s come in and I brought him here as a full-back.

He’s an experienced defender, as is Drew Talbot – but those three are ahead of Drew.

‘The Oldham game didn’t particularly work when I had Talbot and Thompson as a partnership, so they are the current options for the centre-halve positions.

‘My choice will also depend on how the other team play tactically. But, really, I brought Thompson here as a full-back and I think his stature isn’t that of a centre-back.’

The possible relocating of Clarke will create an opening at left-back – a problem position for the Blues this term.

The former Ipswich man was switched to the unfamiliar role after Donohue and Haunstrup were previously given outings.

Haunstrup has not featured since playing in the FA Cup defeat at Luton and been absent from the past three league squads.

Yet overall the Waterlooville youngster has made eight appearances this season.

Jackett added: ‘I think if Brandon gets the games he can step up and come into it, he has the potential.

‘Watching him against Leicester in the reserves recently, he played pretty well and as a young player has to learn from his eight games.

‘He has to compete all the time, which he does, and he has good character. However, unlike Ben Close, he hasn’t been able to stay in the team.

‘That’s his next challenge, to be like Close and be a fixture.

‘It’s not as if he hasn’t had any games – and his opportunity may be Saturday.’