'For the first time in my career, I have no centre-halves': Portsmouth boss' defensive crisis ahead of Gillingham clash

Pompey must face Gillingham without a centre-half to choose from.

Friday, 26th November 2021, 4:55 am
Sean Raggett will sit out Saturday's trip to Gillingham through suspension. Picture: Robin Jones/Digital South

That’s the verdict of Danny Cowley, whose first-team selection plans have been wrecked by absences for Sean Raggett, Paul Downing and Clark Robertson.

Connor Ogilvie has started the last eight matches in the centre of defence and will definitely be called upon at the Priestfield Stadium on Saturday.

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However, Cowley regards the former Gills man as primarily a left-back stepping in as an emergency.

And, for the first time in his managerial career, Pompey’s head coach has been left with no central defensive options.

He told The News: ‘We have no centre-halves. Without doubt, it’s a challenge.

‘Let’s be fair to Connor Ogilvie, he is a left-back but is doing an unbelievable imitation of a centre-half. His form has been excellent and a big part of the reason we've had the run we’re on.

‘To go into a game without any centre-halves is probably the first time it has happened to me in my managerial career.

‘Is that the time to play three centre-halves when you’ve got none? I don’t know, but we’ve got an option to play a back three or a back four.

‘Certainly we are going to have to flex, be adaptable, and players are going to have to play out of position.

‘But, as this group have shown in recent weeks, they are willing to do whatever it takes to help the team and get on the right side of the result.

‘There is not a perfect solution. Sean (Raggett) has been in excellent form and deservedly captained the team on Tuesday against his old club (Lincoln).

‘He is going to be a loss. Whenever you lose a key player it’s difficult to find a perfect solution.’

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Cowley can draw inspiration from Tuesday, when Lee Brown’s suspension meant he was without a left-back alternative.

A switch to a back three helped resolve that issue, with Reeco Hackett operating as a left wing-back.

The outcome was an impressive 3-0 success over Lincoln to stretch the Blues’ unbeaten run to eight matches.

He added: ‘On Tuesday we had no left-back in the squad and were able to flex, tweak, be adaptable and find a solution.

‘Credit to the players, that’s the third time in three games we have changed our system. They’ve had to really adapt, be open-minded and take a lot of information on board.

‘A number of them have had to play out of position and they have all been willing to put the team before themselves.’

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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