Paul Downing earns Kenny Jackett praise as Portsmouth boss considers defensive options
It represented a thankless task, thrown on from the substitutes’ bench to diffuse Southampton’s growing threat.
Now Paul Downing is in the reckoning to again capitalise on Oli Hawkins’ absence, with a first-team return against Bolton.
In the past week, the summer recruit has found himself jettisoned from Kenny Jackett’s starting XI, with Hawkins instead preferred.
Yet when the converted striker sustained a foot injury on 59 minutes of Tuesday evening’s Carabao Cup clash, Downing was handed a swift return.
Although when the impressive Nathan Redmond entered for the final 18 minutes, the challenge was significantly ramped up for Blues defenders as Southampton ran out 4-0 winners.
And the former Blackburn man is vying with Tom Naylor for a centre-half presence alongside Christian Burgess on Saturday.
Jackett said: ‘Paul probably had one bad game, which was when we played Burton, but other than that has played well and had good performances so far.
‘It was a tough one coming on the other night, where we were pushing on and working hard to get back into the game, but particularly that last 15 minutes.
‘They had Redmond on the break and I thought he took them up another level and gave them another dimension, he scored a very good goal.
‘His pace and close control when he was going was something more than than they had for the first part of the game, although I suppose his replacement Ings scored two goals earlier.
‘Paul’s had some very good games for us, very good, and is an experienced player who can come through it.’
Downing has made 10 appearances since arriving on a free transfer in the summer.
And with Hawkins sidelined for up to six weeks, the first-team door has opened once more.
Jackett added: ‘He’s a very good pro and experienced player – as is Sean Raggett.
‘Both of them will be looking for a run in the team to produce their best, that’s the big thing now, you need to play well enough to get a run.
‘Downing and Raggett will be looking to do what they came here for, which is to help Pompey.’