Answering Portsmouth's defensive SOS - now luckless ex-Blackburn man aiming to remain there

Paul Downing could never have anticipated that a Hampshire Senior Cup outing on Basingstoke’s 3G would herald a first-team return.

Monday, 20th September 2021, 4:55 am

Nonetheless, following injuries to Clark Robertson and Connor Ogilvie, the 29-year-old was catapulted into the Blues side facing Cambridge United on Saturday.

Downing’s first league start since the final game of last season resulted in a 2-1 defeat which saw Pompey booed off.

Yet it was a solid performance from the centre-half, who made way on 67 minutes for tactical reasons with the scoreline at 1-0.

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And with Plymouth visiting tomorrow, he’s determined to stay there.

He told The News: ‘Towards the end of the week, Connor and Robbo picked up a couple of knocks, which is disappointing for the,.

‘Obviously now it’s up to me to step up and produce performances that help the team win.

‘That’s why we have a strong squad, so we can deal with injuries and not be any weaker. I’ve got to make sure that I play my part.

Paul Downing is eyeing regular first-team football after his Pompey League One return against Cambridge United. Picture: Joe Pepler

‘Having missed so much football for myself, just to get that feeling to play on a Saturday, waking up excited, is fantastic - and you want more of it.

‘As a career, football is very up and down, you’ve got to deal with set-backs and keep trying to improve. Keep coming in with a smile on your face every day and know there are good things around the corner.

‘I have tried to do that, I’ve kept working hard and the manager has shown a lot of faith in me since he’s been here.

‘After my hamstring over pre-season and then being out with Covid, which was a double whammy for me, I feel fit and strong.

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‘Hopefully there’s a change of luck now for me and I can get some more minutes and start showing everyone what a good player I can be.’

In recent weeks, Downing has played 90 minutes against AFC Wimbledon in the Papa John’s Trophy and then Basingstoke.

Saturday represented only his ninth league outing since arriving at Fratton Park in the summer of 2019.

Although he was withdrawn on 67 minutes for George Hirst, with Shaun Williams dropping in at centre-half.

Downing added: ‘At 1-0, we wanted to try to push on and go on and win the game.

‘Cambridge were banking in, so we perhaps didn’t need as many defenders on the pitch. That obviously meant sacrificing myself for the team and getting more strikers on the pitch.

‘We have Plymouth next and, with the fixtures coming up, I will be ready when called up to perform.’

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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