All change for Portsmouth's new-look central-defensive partnership

For the first time in five campaigns, Pompey’s central-defensive partnership will bear an unfamiliar look for the season’s curtain raiser.

Thursday, 27th June 2019, 12:00 pm
Jack Whatmough is expected to return to Pompey duty in February. Picture: Joe Pepler

Mainstay Matt Clarke has departed for Brighton, while the long-serving Jack Whatmough is not anticipated to return from injury until February.

At this stage, it leaves newcomer Paul Downing and Christian Burgess as the sole centre-half options to kick off the 2019-20 campaign at Shrewsbury.

Since the summer of 2015, Burgess, Clarke and Whatmough have been the regular occupants at the heart of Pompey’s defence.

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Now Downing is on the scene – while Kenny Jackett remains in the market for another central defender.

After Paul Cook matched Burgess and Clarke, the pair appeared 104 times together, registering 33 clean sheets and conceding 103 times.

They were present when Pompey won the League Two title against Cheltenham and were the double act for the Wembley Checkatrade Trophy triumph.

However, injury-permitting, Kenny Jackett largely preferred Whatmough as Clarke’s defensive partner.

The duo featured on 40 occasions, amassing 16 clean sheets and shipping in 38 goals.

In terms of shut-outs, that’s an average of one every 2.5 games, compared to 3.1 matches by the Clarke/Burgess axis.

As for Burgess and Whatmough, as a pair they’ve lined-up in eight matches, with one clean sheet and eight goals conceded.

Such has been the stability in the centre of defence during the past four seasons, only seven other players have started games.

They consist of Adam Webster, Adam Barton, Tom Davies, Oli Hawkins, Matt Casey, Anton Walkes and Nathan Thompson.

Webster, who is currently impressing at Bristol City and attracting Premier League interest, partnered both Burgess (19 times) and Clarke (10 times) during the 2015-16 campaign.

Incidentally, the relocation of midfielder Barton to the role by Cook was a surprise, making 10 outings in the unfamiliar position before moving to Partick Thistle in August 2016.

As for Matt Casey, he partnered Burgess three times during last year’s Checkatrade Trophy progress, although was soon overtaken when Wembley drew into sight.

The 19-year-old, who on Wednesday signed a new one-year deal, represents the third and final fit centre-half presently on Pompey’s books.

As it stands, though, Downing and Burgess will be the defensive double act on August 3.