Walkes emerges in Portsmouth boss’ midfield conundrum

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Anton Walkes will come into Pompey’s midfield reckoning as Kenny Jackett strives to solve his selection conundrum.

Saturday’s trip to high-flying Accrington sees the Blues without the holding midfield pair which started the midweek 2-2 draw against Burton.

Midfield candidate Anton Walkes lined-up in the centre of defence against Crawley. Picture: Joe Pepler

Midfield candidate Anton Walkes lined-up in the centre of defence against Crawley. Picture: Joe Pepler

League ever-present Tom Naylor is suspended, while Dion Donohue is sidelined for up to four weeks with a hamstring tear, forcing Jackett into changes.

Pompey’s boss has conceded only Walkes and Nathan Thompson fit the physical profile Naylor provides in his engine room, yet both have largely been used at right-back.

Ben Close and Danny Rose are also under consideration, while Ben Thompson can fall back from his recent number 10 outings to help plug the gaps.

And Jackett is weighing up all connotations ahead of the tough trek to the Wham Stadium.

He said: ‘Naylor has done well for us since he came in. We did feel we needed a strong defensive-midfield player and he has done very well.

‘The other one we recruited in the summer in midfield areas was Ben Thompson, and he is available.

‘While I have used Donohue in various roles since he has been at the club, I think his best position is central midfield.

‘His set-piece delivery is good and he has a range of passing sometimes deep in midfield which we haven’t got in the club.

‘Looking at our options, there’s Ben Thompson, Ben Close, Danny Rose, while the likes of Anton Walkes and Nathan Thompson have played in midfield – as well as Gareth Evans.

‘So we have plenty of covering options there.

‘But we probably haven’t got a natural replacement for Naylor, somebody of his physical profile.

‘We have people with enough experience if you are looking at Nathan Thompson and Anton Walkes, but more of their games have been played in the back four. Although, in terms of physical profile, it’s one of those two.

‘Walkes played right-back on Tuesday night, but Nathan is back available and they are my (midfield) options, one of those two could do it.

‘Ben Close can come in as a natural midfielder, so can Danny Rose, and if you need to put a midfielder in front of the back four, I would suggest Walkes and Thompson have done it for us in the past.

‘Walkes did it in the first game of the season. Looking back on his loan spell, he featured in a 4-3-3 against Wigan marking Nick Powell.’

Rose finds himself back in the equation following just one substitute appearance in League One all season.

In total, he has featured three times during the campaign, yet can expect to find himself back in Saturday’s squad.

Jackett added: ‘Danny’s last game out was Crawley in the Checkatrade Trophy, his outings have been few and far between.

‘In the main, the two we recruited in the summer – Naylor and Ben Thompson – have played the most games. Gareth Evans maybe has done in the 10 position and then, after that, it has been Close.

‘Walkes had the odd game in midfield last season, Nathan Thompson had the odd game, too.

‘They are the options – and good options as well.’