Pompey v Doncaster: pre-match talking points

Anton Walkes could start against Doncaster. Picture: Colin Farmery
Anton Walkes could start against Doncaster. Picture: Colin Farmery
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Will Rooney looks ahead to Pompey’s clash against Doncaster and picks out the talking points...

Centre-midfield conundrum

It would have been easy to forget there was a game on this weekend after all of the transfer deadline day shenanigans.

Some Pompey fans were left underwhelmed by Kenny Jackett’s business, with goalkeeper Stephen Henderson the solitary arrival, while Kyle Bennett was allowed to leave by mutual consent.

The void the Blues failed to fill was in central midfield.

Jamie Hanson was a target from Derby but that move failed to come to fruition.

Ben Close has been a solid performer during his breakthrough season and has become a key man in Jackett’s set-up.

But the question is: who will partner him for Doncaster’s visit to Fratton Park?

Jackett has options – but none are out-and-out central midfielders.

Dion Donohue featured in the role at Rotherham and it’s his favoured position.

Yet the Welshman has served as a left-back, for the most part, this term and returned to Jackett’s rearguard last weekend against Shrewsbury.

Meanwhile, Nathan Thompson, so impressive in the draw against Scunthorpe in the middle of the park, would give Pompey the experience they need in the absence of Danny Rose and Stuart O’Keefe.

However, the former Swindon man has been part of the Blues’ defensive line which Jackett may not want to change.

That, therefore, could see new boy Anton Walkes be handed a debut alongside Close.

The Spurs loanee has first-team experience under his belt, having spent a season in the MLS at Atlanta United playing in front of crowds of 70,000 fans.

He’ll no doubt be able to handle the atmosphere at Fratton Park, but that may mean Jackett’s midfield may lack a bit of nous and know-how with a 20 and 21-year-old in the engine room.

Goalkeeping pressure

Keeper Stephen Henderson couldn’t hide his delight after arriving at Pompey on loan from Nottingham Forest on transfer deadline day.

The Dubliner never wanted to leave Fratton Park in the first place just under six years ago.

And he believes he can resurrect his career, having never really settled down since his departure.

Kenny Jackett sprung a surprise by revealing he’ll be his No1 shot-stopper for the immediate future, replacing Luke McGee.

The 22-year-old was one of the Pompey boss’ top targets in the summer, contacting the former Spurs man while he relaxed on holiday to persuade him to swap north London for the third tier.

It initially appeared Henderson had arrived to offer stronger competition for the former Peterborough loanee, given Alex Bass has made just one appearance this term.

Although McGee has made a couple of errors, he - for the majority of the season - has been a solid performer.

Henderson will be relishing the chance to be playing week-in, week-out after making just one appearance for Forest this term.

But the pressure will be on the 29-year-old to deliver immediately, with Jackett’s judgement call also under scrutiny.

A chance for maiden 2018 victory

Zero wins, one draw and four losses.

That is Pompey’s record since the turn of the year, resulting in them tumbling out of the play-off places.

In truth, the Blues can’t afford to lose any more ground on the top six if promotion is to be achieved.

But they face a Doncaster side who have also been out of form, while Jackett’s side should head into the game determined to prove their doubters wrong.

Darren Ferguson’s outfit are also winless in 2018 and have only won three of their past 11 games.

However, the Blues have failed to beat their Yorkshire opponents in their past five attempts, while they failed to turn up in the reverse fixture at the Keepmoat Stadium.

Pompey were condemned to a 2-1 defeat on that occasion.

They’ll be determined to turn the tables against Donny.