Teenage Kicks: My confidence in Cookie has never wavered

Despite last Saturday's bitterly disappointing defeat to Notts County, I still had complete confidence in Paul Cook heading into yesterday's clash with Cambridge United.

Tuesday, 1st November 2016, 12:00 pm
Matt Clarke deserves a run of games in the centre of defence. Picture: Joe Pepler

And I maintain my belief our squad is comfortably the most talented in the division.

But the manner of the goals we conceded against County – and others – has potentially revealed a soft underbelly to our side.

Worryingly, it is like a knife through butter at times.

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But my confidence in Cook to solve this emerging problem has not wavered because he and his management staff have addressed such issues before.

For example, we do not concede late goals at a frequent and predictable rate, are not deterred by stubborn defences and look more of a threat from corners than we did at the start of the season.

Soft goals seem to be the next problem waiting to be solved.

It is worth noting Pompey have been unlucky with injuries in defensive areas this season.

Drew Talbot, Adam Buxton, Matt Clarke and Jack Whatmough have all been sidelined.

Now all are fit, it is my opinion Christian Burgess and Matt Clarke need a run of games as a centre-half pairing.

The two complemented each other’s game well last season, kept clean sheets and individual errors were few and far between.

You also get balance at the back to have a left-footer, in Clarke, playing on the left and a right-footer, Burgess, on the right.

It was a blow to lose Talbot to injury, too, with midfielder Gareth Evans having to play in the right-back slot.

In one-on-one situations, Evans has proven to be a fantastic tackler but we all know his strengths are going forward.

Against Notts County, there were gaping holes at the back and the visitors exploited them.

I want to see Evans in and around the opposing team’s box.

He had a decent goal record last season and proved a potent threat in the air.

I haven’t seen much of Buxton but if he is a more defensively-minded right-back, it may be wise to slot him in for now.

We need balance in the side. To have one defensive and one attacking full-back may make us more equipped to deal with quick counter-attacks or direct runs forward from the opposition.

Rest assured the management and players know they need a consistent run of wins to solidify a promotion push.

But also be sure they can solve the defensive issue that is so-far plaguing our campaign.

Ben Sturt is 17 years old and has been a season-ticket holder in the Fratton End for more than a decade.

He writes a weekly column in the Sports Mail where he discusses the key talking points at Pompey – from the perspective of a younger supporter.