Pompey’s flexible friend has caught the eye

Anton Walkes in action at Rochdale. Picture: Daniel Chesterton/phcimages.com
Anton Walkes in action at Rochdale. Picture: Daniel Chesterton/phcimages.com
Pompey fans sung well past the final whistle in the previous trip to Stevanage in March 2017. Picture: Joe Pepler

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Joe Gallen has praised Pompey’s flexible friend as the side seek to cope in Anton Walkes’ injury absence.

The versatile performer has been sidelined for at least three matches following a hamstring strain against Rochdale.

It was all to do with Anton having a moment of clarity in an offensive position and picking out the right pass

Joe Gallen

Walkes had reverted to his right-back role at the time, although has also been employed as a holding midfielder in recent weeks.

It is that variability which has impressed the Blues management as the 21-year-old seeks to make an impact during a maiden spell in the Football League.

With 12 matches and one goal, Walkes has caught the eye of Gallen since arriving on loan from Spurs.

Pompey’s assistant boss said: ‘Anton offers a lot of flexibility, in terms of a holding midfield, right-back and we also think centre-half.

‘He has been absolutely fantastic, is a very committed player, very solid and can handle making a mistake at a big club.

‘A lot of young players make a mistake and lose 5-10 per cent, but he has that belief in himself that he can come back from there.

‘You look at his athletic qualities and, when he has gone into midfield, consider that first goal against Wigan.

‘Anton had that moment of clarity where he took an extra step and rapped the ball into Ben Close, it was an excellent pass, and Ben received it on his back foot and won a penalty.

‘It was all to do with Anton having a moment of clarity in an offensive position and picking out the right pass.

‘He also did well at Walsall. Erhun Oztumer is their top scorer and top of the assists in the league, but Anton kept him quiet.

‘Within that, though, you still have to set off some attacks. It’s one thing stopping the player, but when the ball comes to you and you give it straight back to the other team that’s not going to work either.

‘Off the back of that, he still has to receive the ball and get attacks, making sure you keep possession under pressurised situations – and it’s important he has been able to do that also.’

At Rochdale, Walkes started off as the sole body sitting in front of the back four, before the system switched to a 4-2-3-1.

Then, following second-half substitutions, he served at right-back.

Gallen added: ‘At Rochdale, we did go to Jamal at number 10 for 25 minutes before half-time and two holding, so we can manoeuvre between the two systems.

‘With the personnel already on the pitch, we can tweak and manoeuvre, which is a good thing without having to make a sub to change things around.

‘We can go between the two.’