Leam Richardson believes Matt Clarke and Jack Whatmough are up there with the very best young centre-backs in the country.
Pompey have forged a stellar reputation as being a strong defensive unit this season.
They’ve conceded 39 goals in League Two – the best record in League Two and third best outside the Premier League.
Clarke and Christian Burgess have been Paul Cook’s main centre-half pairing for the majority.
The former missed last Monday’s 3-1 win at Notts County with a knock and was replaced by Jack Whatmough, who impressed at Meadow Lane.
Cook rewarded Whatmough with another start against Cambridge United on Saturday.
Clarke partnered the Gosport-born defender for the first time, with Burgess given a well-deserved rest.
Only, an unstoppable Luke Berry free-kick denied Pompey a 12th clean sheet of the season,
And assistant boss Richardson was impressed by how Clarke and Whatmough performed throughout the contest.
‘Christian has played and trained every singled day for the past 18 months.
‘Jack came in and done well at Notts County.
‘We hadn’t seen the pairing of him and Clarkey together.
‘We wanted to see that pairing.
‘It’s important to keep a vibrant group around you.
‘Christian will be back in, I’m sure, as he’s one of our standout players.
‘I thought Jack and Matt were very good together.
‘As young centre-halves around the country go, you won’t find many better than them two.
‘They’re learning and receiving information, certainly with Matt having played a lot this year – he’s improved no end.
‘With Jack seeing the club fall so low, being involved in a promotion is fantastic for him.’
Cambridge put the Blues under pressure late on.
In injury time, the visitors were awarded another close-range free-kick as they looked to equalise.
Berry stepped up and his effort was destined for the top corner, only for Forde to push the ball wide.
The Millwall loanee is closing in on a Fratton Park record for the most clean sheets kept in a season.
And Richardson feels Forde has had a superb impact at Pompey.
‘It was a fantastic stop at the end,’ he added.
‘In the first half, Fordey had to come for a few crosses.
‘From last year’s experience, we thought that’s we needed to help our young centre-halves.’
– WILL ROONEY