Portsmouth timely boost as Naylor’s return adds vital bite

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The bite is back in Pompey’s midfield.

And Kenny Jackett is banking on Tom Naylor’s return kickstarting the Blues’ spluttering promotion aspirations.

Tom Naylor is back to add bite to Pompey's midfield against Bristol Rovers tonight. Picture: Joe Pepler

Tom Naylor is back to add bite to Pompey's midfield against Bristol Rovers tonight. Picture: Joe Pepler

The combative midfielder will tonight line-up against Bristol Rovers (7.45pm) as Pompey seek a second league win of 2019.

During a two-game absence through suspension, Jackett’s men collected draws at Plymouth and Southend, having let leads slip on both occasions.

Ben Close and Bryn Morris were the central midfielders for those fixtures, the pair netting three times between them in the process.

But occasional skipper Naylor offers a more physical presence, perfectly equipped for shielding a defence which at the weekend surrendered a three-goal advantage at Roots Hall.

Jackett said: ‘Tom has been a good player for us in the first half of the season, a very reliable character, and his defensive instincts and qualities would help us, definitely.

‘He’s strong physically and competes well, although I don’t think either Morris or Close have done badly when he’s been out, I’ve been impressed with both.

‘You do wonder and do look at had he been able to play against Southend, but you also look at the two players who played there – Close and Morris – and their age and ability, they have played well and I’ve been pleased with them.

‘Tom brings a great deal of experience and some physical presence that at times we need in the centre of midfield. There’s his ball-winning ability and consistency, he’s a big part of what we did in the first half of the season.

‘He’s a good competitor and gives us a physical presence we didn’t necessarily have last year. We also had quite a good midfield triangle with Ben Thompson and Gareth Evans in the first half of this season.

‘Tom shows good leadership quality along with his experience and attitude, with both he and Lee Brown adding quite a bit to the group this season.’

With Naylor certain to start in the Fratton Park clash, Jackett must decide which out of Close or Morris will partner him.

He added: ‘Now Tom’s available, we have a choice between two from the three.

‘The other two lads are slightly different players. Good players, definitely, but Naylor is a bit more of a physical presence.

‘The reason we brought him in is down to something we lacked last year. We lacked presence and ball-winning ability in the midfield almost the entire season.’