Portsmouth's right-back dilemma as makeshift role Christian Burgess once filled an option against Doncaster

It was a selection decision that was left field, to say the least.

Tuesday, 2nd March 2021, 6:30 am
Christian Burgess of Portsmouth in the Blackpool box during the EFL Sky Bet League 1 match between Blackpool and Portsmouth at Bloomfield Road, Blackpool, England on 31 August 2019.

Having helped Pompey to League Two and Checkatrade Trophy glory in central defence, there’d have been few fans who’d have predicted Christian Burgess would operate as a right-back at Fratton Park.

Yet that proved the case for a short period towards the beginning of last season.

After Anton Walkes had underwhelmed and Ross McCrorie struggled in the infamous 3-3 draw with Coventry, Jackett opted to convert Burgess into a makeshift full-back.

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Certainly, it was a surprise the fans' favourite was shifted out wide given how unnatural the position was to him.

In total, his stint out wide lasted three matches. The first was a 2-0 success at Championship outfit QPR in the Carabao Cup before he delivered a man-of-the-match performance in a 1-1 draw at Blackpool.

Yet after a shocking defensive display in a 2-2 home draw with Burton, Jackett accepted he could no longer do without the ex-Peterborough man in central defence.

When James Bolton returned from an ankle injury, Burgess was restored to his favoured role the following game at Wycombe.

And ahead of Pompey’s trip to Doncaster tonight, Jackett could deploy a recognised centre-half out of position.

With first-choice right-back Callum Johnson out injured, along with the versatile Bolton, Haji Mnoga was handed a second Football League start in Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Gillingham.

Playing his first game in two-and-a-half months, the 18-year-old delivered a decent performance.

However, there were moments when he expectantly showed his inexperience – no more so when a flying late challenge on Connor Ogilvie earned him a yellow card.

Heading to Doncaster, Jackett has to weigh up whether to retain faith in Mnoga or play Whatmough in a make-do position.

Pompey face a potent Rovers attack that has the perfect blend of youth and experience and scored 47 league goals so far.

If Mnoga is to retain his spot, he’ll be tasked with nullifying the likes of Team of the Season contender Josh Sims and the wily, evergreen James Coppinger.

That’s not to say that the England youth international won’t rise to the challenge, of course.

He’s coming up against the best forwards the league has to offer in training every day.

And given his lack of action ahead of the Gills clash, he’s bound to improve markedly, while his pace going forward is an asset.

Yet an early booking will mean Mnoga’s up against it for the remainder of the game and Donny would likely look to target him more frequently.

On the other hand, Whatmough would scarcely have the same attacking output as the powerful Mnoga if Jackett does opt to shuffle his pack.

However, the Gosport lad would provide the nous and experience Pompey’s boss may opt for.