Pompey's ex-Checkatrade stalwart is shining bright
The Checkatrade Trophy was previously served up as the first-team staple diet for Ben Close.
Now the midfielder has been handed a night off as he maintains his promising progress.
The Fratton lad has started Pompey’s past four League One matches during a sustained run in Kenny Jackett’s side.
In contrast, all four of his outings last season arrived in cup competitions – three of which came in the Checkatrade Trophy against Yeovil, Reading under-23s and Bristol Rovers.
Tonight the Blues line up against Crawley (7.45pm), with the side to be overhauled to allow fringe players the opportunity for action.
Close will step aside to allow Danny Rose and Adam May the opportunity to impress in the two central-midfield roles.
Yet he will once again be in the frame for Sunday’s trip to Gillingham upon resumption of league action.
And Joe Gallen is delighted with how the 21-year-old is faring in Pompey’s first team.
The Blues’ assistant boss said: ‘Even in a training session I don’t think Ben has had a poor one, he’s a very consistent player.
‘He’s a very consistent day-to-day person, he never gets too low when things aren’t quite going for him and never gets too high when it’s going well. He has a really good temperament.
‘From that point of view, he is a great person to work with and he’s growing into the games. Probably the last 20-30 minutes against Bristol Rovers were arguably his best.
‘Ben’s a very neat and tidy footballer. He has got to work consciously on the defensive side of his game, but on the ball he rarely gives it away and keeps the team moving.
‘People have told me he had a slight issue with his hamstrings in the past, but he hasn’t mentioned them, so that’s handy because he’s taken his chance and played well.
‘On a daily basis – and in training it’s the same – Ben’s very consistent in terms of what you get from him. He’s mobile, good on the ball and sees a pass.
‘You probably don’t see him do the last pass to create a chance just yet, but he does have the ability to do that.’
Pompey were frustratingly below par in Saturday’s forgettable 2-1 home defeat to Oldham.
Yet in a rare bright moment, it was Close who exchanged passes with Jamal Lowe in a first-half move which saw the winger rattle the post.
The home-grown product largely operates in a deeper role to that of midfield partner Stuart O’Keefe – and Gallen believes it suits.
He added: ‘Ben holds, while Stuart is slightly more advanced than him. That’s not his game, he has got to be behind the ball.
‘With the holding-midfield role there are some defensive responsibilities, some interceptions, reading danger, putting himself in-between the full-back and centre-half at times, blocks on the edge of the box.
‘Ben’s getting better and I really hope he continues because he’s a really decent bloke who has been waiting his chance for quite a long time.’