Ben Close: What Portsmouth must do to nullify Coventry’s Conor Chaplin on Fratton Park return

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Ben Close surveyed Conor Chaplin’s Fratton Park return and declared: We can’t give him half a yard.

The striker comes up against Pompey for the first time today since joining Coventry for £500,000 last summer

Conor Chaplin and Ben Close together. Picture: Joe Pepler

Conor Chaplin and Ben Close together. Picture: Joe Pepler

Chaplin was a firm favourite among Blues fans.. He came through the youth ranks at the club, made his debut aged 17 and was an important member of Paul Cook's League Two title-winning side in 2017.

In total, he scored 25 goals in 122 appearances.

Chaplin’s name was sang from the PO4 stands after he netted Coventry’s winner in their 5-4 thriller at Sunderland earlier this month.

That meant Pompey’s defeat of Rochdale moved them level on points with the Black Cats in the League One automatic promotion race. 

Conor Chaplin. Picture: Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

Conor Chaplin. Picture: Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

Having graduated through the academy together, Close knows it’s crucial Pompey nullify Chaplin’s goalscoring threat when the Sky Blues travel to the south coast (12.30pm).

The midfielder said: ‘Conor did us a favour the other day by scoring the winner at Sunderland.

‘But the last thing we want is for him to be in good form today.

‘Hopefully he doesn’t return with a bang. 

‘Throughout the game we saw the scores coming in.

‘For the first couple of cheers in the first half, I didn’t know what was going on.

‘Out of the blue I just heard a loud cheer and I thought “Is there something happening in the crowd, is a fight going on?”

‘I didn’t have a clue and then it came up 3-1 just before half-time. I heard the cheer, the score caught the corner of my eye and then I realised what the cheering was about.

‘Obviously in the second half it was going on as well and then we heard the fans singing Conor Chaplin, so I knew he’d definitely scored.

‘I didn’t see the score but knew he’d probably done us a favour. After the game, we saw it was the winning goal and it was quite funny really. 

‘It was good hearing his name because I knew he'd done us a favour.

‘But we really don’t want him in good form today – we want him to be quiet!

‘I spoke to him after the game and he was buzzing the fans were singing his name.

‘It was a great finish on his weak foot and it’s a good reminder just before we play them that we can’t give Conor half-a-yard in the box.’

Close remains in close contact with Chaplin since his switch to the Ricoh Arena.

Chaplin even put his former team-mate in his League One Team of the Season – which wasn't repaid by the Southsea man. 

‘We’re good mates and we have been for years,’ Close added.

‘Usually we have a chat after the games on a Saturday evening.

‘I think he put me in his Team of the Season, which was a bit over-friendly because I don't think I earned it.

‘That shows what a good mate he is, although I didn’t repay the favour!

‘He’s going to find out now and I’ll have to say sorry when I see him.’