Portsmouth goal rush catches in-form Ben Close off guard

It’s the remarkable scoring burst which has taken the Fratton faithful by surprise.

Saturday, 2nd March 2019, 10:19 pm
Updated Saturday, 2nd March 2019, 11:25 pm
Ben Close is helped back to his feet by Nathan Thompson after netting his first against Bradford. Picture: Joe Pepler

And even Ben Close cannot pinpoint the precise reason behind a rush of four goals in five league matches.

The in-form midfielder netted twice in Saturday’s magnificent 5-1 hammering of Bradford at Fratton Park to end the long wait for a League One victory.

For Close, the purple patch continues, following recent goals against Plymouth and Southend.

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The 22-year-old netted four times in the first half of an FA Youth Cup match with Moneyfields in November 2013.

Yet Saturday marked his sixth and seventh goals in 104 first-team appearances – although there appears to be change in the air.

Close said: ‘I scored 10 or 11 goals as a second-year scholar, but taking it into professional football is a lot harder, a lot tougher, especially as a young pro.

‘You’re going into the men’s game, but of late I’ve found a bit of goal-scoring form.

‘For whatever reason it has come, I haven’t changed too much of my game, there’s nothing in particular I have done.

‘Over-training is something you don’t want to do, so I’ve not been doing extra shooting or anything. This run is probably something which is just happening with good confidence and good form.

‘Potentially it has always been in my locker, I’ve scored goals at youth-team level, quite a few at reserve level, and hopefully it’s all coming out now.

‘The manager hasn’t really mentioned about needing to add goals. If you start thinking you have to score more you find yourself only focusing on that. As a midfielder you can’t do that.

‘You’ve got to be ready to score when the ball falls in the right position for you, but ultimately are there to play, help defend as well as get into goal-scoring positions.

‘Against Bradford we had three in midfield and the majority of times Tom Naylor sat with me and Gaz (Evans) more advanced, so we were the ones making the box and getting in goal-scoring positions.’

Gareth Evans, Naylor and Jamal Lowe also registered against managerless Bradford as the Blues roared back to form.

And Close’s goal-scoring contribution capped off a superb man-of-the-match display.

He added: ‘The first goal was a striker’s finish, Evo said to me his shot was going in but I don’t think it was!

‘I’m happy with it because, as much as it looked like a tap-in, I had to get myself in the right position. I predicted Evo was going to hit it across the goal and got there to finish it off.

‘For the second, Ronan crossed it early, it fell nicely, and I was aware that if I took a touch then I wouldn’t know what was behind me, I could get tackled.

‘So I kept it low, not too hard but across the keeper – and it went in.’