The Portsmouth battle lines are drawn in right-back race ahead of Shrewsbury

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Anton Walkes is winning the race to start Pompey’s season at right-back.

But it’s a case of ‘may the best man win’ in his hotly-contested battle for a Blues shirt with James Bolton.

Walkes has been the man who’s gained momentum across pre-season following the departure of Nathan Thompson.

That’s after Bolton’s progress was halted when picking up a groin injury in the first warm-up game against Irish side UCD.

But the summer arrival was back for the final warm-up win against Woking on Tuesday night, and assistant manager Joe Gallen is an interested onlooker as the pair tussle for the starting spot.

Gallen said: ‘James is a very fit lad who’s fitted in well. He’s a right-back really who’s played centre-back a bit.

Pompey's Anton Walkes. Picture: Joe Pepler

Pompey's Anton Walkes. Picture: Joe Pepler

‘It’s him and Anton Walkes. It’s going to be an interesting battle. They are both good players. 

‘James has definitely come here to play, he’s not come here to sit around.

‘He’s from Stoke, been at Shrewsbury and has come down here to play.

‘It looks like James is going to have a right go at this.

Pompey's James Bolton. Picture: Joe Pepler

Pompey's James Bolton. Picture: Joe Pepler

‘I wouldn’t say for sure but it looks like Anton might have the shirt, but James is going to have a right go that’s for sure.

‘What’s he like as a player? He’s very strong and very steady, a typical full-back.

‘He’s got good athleticism, good in the air and his distribution is good.

‘Distribution is a big thing for a full-back, they know they have to come out, play and pass forward.

‘Then in the final third they have to put it in the box.

‘It’s a close battle - and may the best man win.

Gallen is confident Bolton is now over the injury issue which kept him sidelined and that means no one can rest on their laurels when it comes to performance levels. The Pompey assistant feels the team will be the beneficiaries of that.

He added: ‘Anton has been playing well and James has been injured.

‘But he’s back now and there’s going to be a battle on.

‘That’s only going to be good news for us because they are going to push each other into a good performance on a Saturday - and that’s what we’re interested in.

‘We’ll encourage both because there’s development in them both and they are going to improve.

‘Then the manager has to pick one of them - and we’ll see who comes out on top.’