Portsmouth boss highlights key to midfield success

Ben Close has been a pinpointed as the key to reviving Pompey’s midfield creativity.

Pompey midfielder Ben Close. Picture: Joe Pepler.
Pompey midfielder Ben Close. Picture: Joe Pepler.

The midfielder is set to make his 100th Blues’ appearance as his side bid to kickstart their promotion bid at Southend on Saturday.

And Kenny Jackett has told of his belief Close can be the man to be his side’s playmaking hub in the middle of the park.

The Southsea talent bagged his second goal of the season on his third successive start for his side since returning from an ankle injury.

There’s little doubt his stock has risen under Jackett’s management as he gets set to bring up his century of appearances.

Of his career outings, 72 have arrived under his current manager over the past two campaigns.

That compares to just four games in Paul Cook’s 2016-17 title-winning season, with none coming in the league before he joined National League Eastleigh on loan.

Jackett views Close as one of the best footballers he has at his disposal, however, and feels he could have an important role in the run-in.

He said: ‘As much as strength you need football, too. Ben Close is a very good footballer.

‘When you have periods when you need to get on the football he’s as good as anyone we have.

‘He’s as good as anyone for getting us playing.

‘At times he’s done that well and had good spells on the ball.

‘For Ben, his ball-playing ability and consistency I think are very strong along with his personality.’

It was Close who got the nod to partner Bryn Morris in midfield against Plymouth last Saturday.

There’s every chance the duo will continue at Southend this weekend, with a win desperately needed to get the season moving again.

Tom Naylor completes his two-game suspension at Roots Hall, while Andy Cannon is finding his way back from a quad injury as he waits to get his Pompey career firing.

Adam May is available while Dion Donohue is expected to have recovered from a shin impact injury.

Jackett knows the task he faces is to find the right midfield blend following Ben Thompson’s return to Millwall.

He added: ‘You need a partnership and a complement.

‘You need that whether it’s centre-backs, two central midfielder players or a nine and a 10.

‘They need to combine well and midfield players have always been the same.

‘We need to find a pair and we’re looking for a pair who are good enough to hold people out.

‘That’s what they’re for and why opportunities are there.

‘We have a capable group. We have capable midfield players.

‘It’s up to myself to find the right combinations.’