The outstanding 2019 goal-scoring transformation of Portsmouth's Ben Close

For Ben Close, 2019 represents the year he introduced a new dimension to his game.

Saturday, 28th December 2019, 11:30 am

The home-grown midfielder netted the crucial opening goal in the Boxing Day triumph over league leaders Wycombe.

It signified the 13th occasion Close has been on Pompey’s scoresheet during the last 12 months, a remarkable turnaround in goal-scoring fortunes.

Before the turn of the year, he had netted three times in 93 appearances since breaking into the first-team.

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Ben Close set Pompey on their way to victory over Wycombe with his 16th goal for the club. Picture: Barry Zee

He has subsequently registered 13 goals in his next 54 outings.

And Jackett has praised the 23-year-old’s new-found contribution.

He said: ‘Ben has got some key goals for us – and some big ones.

‘Close and Naylor have been pretty good for me, it’s a well-established partnership over a couple of years, they are used to each other.

‘From that point of view, they know when to hold and when to go, it is something I trust Ben to assess, and he has got some key goals.

‘Against Wycombe it was a good little sidestep and he scored at a time when it looked like the chances were there, but wouldn’t go in.

‘Cannon is the most attacking one or the furthest forward of our midfield, Ben can come from behind in a move and get into key areas, while Tom anchors both of them.

‘It’s quite a good balance and you do need a balance, obviously that was something we never had at Accrington.

‘We didn’t have enough bodies in there for some short passing to help us defend or attack, then finally from that area you need an end product.’

Close has now totalled 16 goals in 147 appearances since making his debut in September 2014 at Yeovil in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy.

Fleetwood in the FA Cup on January 4 is now pencilled in as a potential 150th outing.

Jackett added: ‘I do think Ben is a very consistent player.

‘I always think if he does have a bad game, and he doesn’t have many, but if he does, then he has the character to have a good one in the next match.

‘Helping him along in his progress and him being a good player for Portsmouth is our aim.’