Ben Close admits 'strange' Portsmouth battle with best friend and Barnsley foe Conor Chaplin

Firm friends yet reunited as footballing foes, two of Pompey’s own locked horns at Fratton Park on Saturday.

Monday, 27th January 2020, 5:30 am

Yet it was Ben Close left smiling after helping inflict a 4-2 defeat on Championship Barnsley.

The midfielder’s former playing colleague and room-mate, Conor Chaplin, returned to the south coast with the Tykes for Saturday’s FA Cup tie.

The Academy graduates have remained in constant touch since Chaplin’s August 2018 departure, ringing each other at weekends to dissect their respective matches.

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Ben Close marked his duel with Conor Chaplin by scoring Pompey's first in their 4-2 win over Barnsley. Picture: Joe Pepler

And Close was delighted with the outcome.

He said: ‘I scored, I’m not so happy he scored! He would have to have his say wouldn’t he, he’s just a natural goal scorer.

‘Before the game we shook hands and said “All the best” and you get on with the game.

‘Conor gave me a bit of stick for scoring when we had a corner late on, but on the pitch we’re obviously playing against each other and almost enemies, so we saved that chat until after the game.

‘It was a bit strange facing him. He came on for Coventry here last year but played only 14 minutes, so to play a whole game against him was different.

‘He didn’t want to meet for dinner afterwards, though. He has better mates apparently and went out with them!’

There was a rare chant of ‘He’s one of our own’ directed towards Ben Close shortly after his 37th-minute opener.

Yet it was Chaplin who was the final scorer in the encounter, grabbing a consolation in stoppage time to make it 4-2.

Close added: ‘Absolutely it was one of our best performances of the season, it’s not too often everything clicks.

‘We were tenacious off the ball to go and win it back, the fans made it a horrible atmosphere for them at times, while I didn’t look at them and think they wanted it.

‘We had the effort, the application, and, to match that, the right decision-making on the ball and quality in the final third.

‘To have everything like that doesn’t come around every week, so we’re really pleased with that game.’