The puzzling fall from Portsmouth favour of ex-Blackburn and Doncaster favourite Paul Downing

Perhaps it was genuinely coincidental, but the timing of Paul Downing’s arrival saw him bracketed as Matt Clarke’s replacement.

Monday, 16th December 2019, 5:00 pm
Updated Monday, 16th December 2019, 10:42 pm

On June 21, the Blues announced the capture of Ellis Harrison, followed by the inevitable exit of Clarke for Brighton.

Yet there was still one deal still to disclose.

Kenny Jackett had lost a central defender – but, within an hour of Clarke’s exit, Paul Downing was unveiled to fill the chasm.

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Paul Downing has not made a Pompey league appearance for three months and continues to find himself on the periphery. Picture: Joe Pepler

A heartening signing, having featured regularly for a Blackburn side promoted from League One in 2017-18, while the following season helped Doncaster reach the play-offs.

Then aged 27, he also possessed glowing references from supporters associated with two previous clubs he clearly served with such distinction.

Almost six months later and Downing is deemed Pompey’s fifth-choice central defender.

Already barged out of the side by Christian Burgess and Oli Hawkins, with both unavailable for Accrington, Jackett opted for Sean Raggett and central midfielder Tom Naylor.

Instead Downing occupied the bench at the Crown Ground, his customary League One role since mid-September.

The last time he started a league match was three months ago – in the 2-2 draw against Burton at Fratton Park.

Since that point, his full outings have arrived in the Trophy against Oxford United and Northampton.

Granted, there were substitute entrances against Southampton in the Carabao Cup and at Harrogate in the FA Cup, albeit purely through necessity following injury.

It signifies a remarkable slump in the affections of Jackett, who had named him in the opening six league matches of the campaign.

Downing is a softly-spoken individual and low-key presence around the camp, certainly not betraying an explosive nature which may have prompted his jettisoning.

In terms of performances, the former Walsall man has produced displays centring on satisfactory. Not too high, not too low, yet reliable and dependable.

Jackett has previously explained preference for a dominant header of the ball alongside Downing or Burgess, while insisting the 28-year-old remains 'close’ to selection.

Nonetheless, a striker and a midfielder are now ahead of the fading Downing in the first-team reckoning.

And, most puzzling of all, he was handed a three-year deal on the day he replaced Clarke at Fratton Park.