James Bolton battling to remain in Portsmouth squad as Jackett wrestles with defensive dilemma

Kenny Jackett admitted tough defensive choices could potentially result in James Bolton failing to make Pompey’s squad on Saturday.

Thursday, 11th February 2021, 6:00 am
James Bolton may struggle to even make Pompey's bench on Saturday with the anticipated returns of Jack Whatmough and Rasmus Nicolaisen. Picture: Jason Brown/ProSportsImages

The 26-year-old has been a revelation since stepping in as an emergency centre-half, with seven points from a possible nine in his presence.

With Jack Whatmough suspended, Rasmus Nicolaisen absent through the birth of his second child and Paul Downing injured, Bolton had been handed a shock recall as a last resort.

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Yet with Whatmough and Nicolaisen back available for Saturday’s trip to Crewe, it puts Bolton’s ongoing presence in doubt.

Jackett is weighing up the dilemma, while clearly recognising Bolton’s excellent form.

He told The News: ‘Rasmus is back and available for Saturday. We’ve been a little thin in terms of natural centre-backs, but have come through well.

‘Congratulations to James Bolton as well, it was a good clean sheet on Tuesday night, I don’t think their strikers had any sniffs.

‘He has played well in the games he has stepped in for – that’s two wins and a draw.

‘On Saturday they will all be back and I would rather have those choices and opportunities rather than wondering who my next centre-back is. That’s not what you need.

‘With James, we do know, in terms of having a squad, you are going to need those options. And every side does.

‘There are some adaptable players in that, I do understand, and, similarly, natural centre-backs are coming back to us.

‘With the amount of games coming up, whether that be Saturday or going forward after that, it is going to be important.’

Against Swindon, Lee Brown and Haji Mnoga were Pompey’s defensive options on the bench.

On Saturday, the likelihood is Mnoga will drop out, with Whatmough returning to the 18-man squad.

Jackett must then decide whether to recall the Gosport lad to the starting XI – and which of Bolton or Nicolaisen is left out of the squad.

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