Anton Walkes earmarked to solve Portsmouth midfield's injury headache

Anton Walkes is ready to return from the wilderness to answer Pompey’s midfield SOS.

Tuesday, 12th November 2019, 12:42 pm
Updated Wednesday, 13th November 2019, 6:00 am

They are already without potential replacement Ross McCrorie, sidelined with the same problem for up to five more weeks.

At Wetherby Road on Monday evening, Walkes was introduced from the bench as Naylor’s deputy, serving in a holding-midfield role from the 24th minute.

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It represented a first non-Leasing.com Trophy appearance since August for the forgotten 22-year-old.

Now Kenny Jackett is earmarking him for regular first-team action during the influential Naylor’s absence.

He said: 'When Anton came on we reacted off the second ball a little bit better and kept it tight as a back four.

'I thought he did a good job. He is an athletic player, a good competitor and a versatile player, who can play a few roles.

Anton Walkes applauds the Pompey fans following a rare first-team outing on Monday night. Picture: Daniel Chesterton/PinPep

'My choices were Anton or Andy Cannon and I thought, physically, we needed a replacement for Tom in front of the back four to screen the long balls coming in.

'There's no reason why he can’t now play there regularly.

‘McCrorie is out and, in terms of Naylor, we’ll see how long he is going to be out for.’

Walkes started Pompey’s opening four matches in all competitions, operating at right-back.

However, after being substituted for McCrorie in the 2-1 defeat at Sunderland, he has fallen dramatically out of favour.

In the following 17 fixtures, he appeared just four times, with a substitute outing at Blackpool representing Walkes’ sole League One participation.

In addition, he failed to make the 18-man squad for the six matches into the build-up to the FA Cup encounter at Harrogate.

Yet Jackett opted to name the former Spurs man on the bench for the clash with the non-leaguers.

Having replaced Naylor in the first half, Pompey’s boss believes Walkes is capable of a consistent run in the role, with the Blues’ next game at Rochdale on November 23.

Certainly, on occasions, he has operated in midfield for the Blues since a January 2018 arrival – most recently this season’s 3-1 Leasing.com Trophy victory over Norwich under-21s.

Jackett added: 'We will wait and see who is fit and who is available.

‘We have Ellis Harrison out with a bad back as well and the break will allow us to get as many back fit – and to pick a side which will play in that particular game against Rochdale.

‘It’s a match which will be a different test to Monday.’