POMPEY’s heartbeat has been backed to pump life into his side’s midfield
Blues boss Kenny Jackett feels Stuart O’Keefe is establishing himself as a force in the middle of the park for his team.
O’Keefe is out to start his fifth game on the bounce tomorrow at Scunthorpe, since arriving from Cardiff on loan for the rest of the season.
The 26-year-old has added bite to his side’s engine room after a deadline-day deal was agreed.
Jackett believes the player has to be careful not to overstep the mark in his forceful play.
But the Pompey boss acknowledged O’Keefe had added the strength and drive he felt his outfit needed.
Jackett said: ‘Stuart’s an experienced player who is very, very keen to play for Portsmouth. That shows on the pitch. He’s a very good character indeed.
‘He’s picked up second balls well, kept the play moving and shown good enthusiasm and attitude to win the ball back.
‘For what we’ve been so far he’s been the heartbeat of it.
‘There is some competition and devil in his game. If you’re looking at the tackle on Paul Robinson at Wimbledon it could perhaps have been a red.
‘There is that level of competition you get with him. I do think you need that.
‘It is a thin dividing line but we have needed some energy and people who can get there for us.
‘We have needed someone who can physically break the opposition’s play up in and around the box.
‘We have got that from Stuart since he’s been here. I’ve been pleased with him so far. It’s very early in his Portsmouth career. He was very keen to come here and work with myself.
‘He’s made a good start. There’s no reason he can’t build on it.’
O’Keefe has yet to break his goal duck since joining the Blues.
Scoring is not an area the Suffolk-born talent is renowned for, but Jackett believes he has shown he can offer something in that area.
The manager added: ‘Stuart’s had a good amount of shots as well and been unlucky not to score. Against Northampton their keeper made three good saves from his strikes.
‘He has good energy and a good all-round game. He might not have been on the scoresheet yet but there’s been strikes every game from him.’
Jackett feels O’Keefe has helped exert greater control in the middle of the park. He feels he’s added a dimension to his side’s play which has been missing.
‘There hasn’t been too many of those players around like Stuart and we’ve needed that competition in our midfield,’ said Jackett.
‘We’ve had some good passing range, but sometimes – and I feel too many times – the game has gone on around us.
‘We haven’t played badly in midfield, but we haven’t played well enough as a unit.
‘Our midfield unit has needed to impose itself on the game and I’ve felt, at the right time, we’ve needed to show more personality in the game.
‘It’s hard to be critical of our midfield but we haven’t had enough personality in there to affect the game. If we have players learning their trade that’s what they need to learn to bring.’