Keeper vows Portsmouth can be stronger despite loss of Matt Clarke for Brighton

Pompey keeper Craig MacGillivray. Picture: Daniel Chesterton/
Pompey keeper Craig MacGillivray. Picture: Daniel Chesterton/
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Craig MacGillivray believes Pompey can still grow next season despite the loss of Matt Clarke.

The Blues keeper feels his side can handle the exit of the club’s prized asset to Premier League Brighton.

MacGillivray believes Kenny Jackett has recruited the ideal replacement for Clarke in Paul Downing, after his exit from Blackburn.

The 26-year-old also gave a ringing endorsement of the qualities of former Shrewsbury team-mate James Bolton, after his arrival at Pompey’s first summer signing.

The future of Jamal Lowe remains in the balance, but MacGillvray is adamant Pompey’s squad has to be more powerful next term - and is capable of being just that.

He said: ‘We have to be stronger and can be.

‘Paul Downing is a very good defender who I know from Walsall. I had two seasons with him.

‘He’s actually very similar to Matt Clarke, just a bit older. He’s very good with his feet, isn’t afraid to drive out with the ball and can pick a pass.

‘Then he’s good at defending and organises well. He’s like a grown-up version of Clarkey.

‘Ellis Harrison must have something about him for Ipswich to take him in the Championship last season.

‘Lee Brown knows him well and raves about him. I can only go off someone who played with him - and he highly rates him.

‘I obviously know James Bolton as well. He’s different to Nathan Thompson and likes to go forward.

‘Thommo doesn’t go forward as much, in my opinion, although he’s very good at buying the foul and reads the game so well. Bolts will use his athleticism more.

‘He’s an honest, hard-working player who likes to get forward and, for me, is capable of scoring more than he has. 

‘I’m surprised he hasn’t scored more because he’s a threat in the box.

‘He’s very good at what he does and he is a very fit lad. He’s a strong, powerful boy.

MacGillivray feels Clarke’s exit from Pompey had a degree of inevitability to it, as he joined the wave of appreciation for the defender after his four-year Fratton stay came to an end.

He added: ‘It’s a great move for him. When that comes around you have to take the opportunity, especially at that level.

‘He’s done very well and after seeing him play I’d say he’s more than good enough to play at that level.

‘We’ve seen every week what he can do. He has a lot more in his locker than most defenders.

‘Clarkey’s been a great servant to the club and played near enough every game last season.

‘Everyone was talking about him moving when I came in but he’s kept his head on his game.

‘He didn’t talk about it or make a scene. He just went about his work. That’s how it should be done.

‘He’s only 22 but he’s stayed fit and performed week-in, week-out. It’s what he deserves.’