The clues are there over Kenny Jackett's Portsmouth starting XI at Shrewsbury
Pompey writer Jordan Cross looks for clues to Kenny Jackett’s starting XI at Shrewsbury after the warm-up win at Crawley.
Gap at Back
The dress rehearsal for the League One curtain-raiser passed without a hitch at Crawley, but there’s still question marks over Kenny Jackett’s XI for Saturday’s League One matinee at Shrewsbury.
It’s the personnel in the middle of defence which has got everyone guessing for the weekend trip to New Meadow.
Paul Downing looks the short-priced favourite to start on the right side of the central pairing and looked comfortable at the Broadfield Stadium in the 2-1 victory.
But it looks like one from three for the left-sided position vacated by Matt Clarke’s move to Brighton.
Sean Raggett appeared the early favourite after being recruited from Norwich for the season, but an elbow injury kept the 25-year-old out on Saturday and he’s still gaining momentum after a 2019 hampered by injury.
Jackett ran the rule over Tom Naylor there at Stevenage, but the midfielder returned to his usual holding role alongside Ross McCorie in Sussex.
That meant Christian Burgess was assessed in the position and the long-serving defender put in a steady and dependable shift.
So a decision for Jackett to make this week then with three into one not going – but don’t bet against Burgess.
Evans Helps Attack
The most notable plus point in the Crawley win was the energy offered by Pompey’s attacking quartet.
There was a noticeable increase in the energy and ideas brought by the forward-thinking players in the 4-2-3-1 formation.
And Gareth Evans’ return to the number 10 position was fundamental to that.
It wasn’t just Evans’ goal, but the manner in which he dovetailed with the bright and busy play of new boy Marcus Harness and Ronan Curtis on the left.
There was a fluidity to the trio with plenty interchanging of positions.
And with Ellis Harrison’s graft leading the line it looked a foursome which will need some shifting for this weekend.
Walkes on Run
Last season there appeared a clear hierarchy in the right-back position with Nathan Thompson the man largely in possession of the shirt.
But it looks like it may be a closer-run thing this time around with it nip and tuck between James Bolton and Anton Walkes.
With Bolton just returning to fitness after a groin issue, it was the former Spurs man who was used there again on Saturday after starts against Hawks, Stevenage and Crawley in the publicised warm-up games.
Walkes looks to have gained momentum in that time and appears to have his nose in front to start on Saturday.