The irreplaceable requires replacing - Portsmouth's selection headache in Tom Naylor's absence

There are remarkable coincidences, outrageous quirks of fate which cannot be explained.

Tuesday, 12th November 2019, 5:00 pm
Pompey have a gulf to fill with skipper Tom Naylor now sidelined with a hamstring problem. Picture: Joe Pepler

That fact Pompey have never won a league fixture without Tom Naylor since his Fratton Park arrival is not one of them.

Certainly, there’s a formidable link between the combative midfielder's first-team presence and positive Blues results.

Naylor has missed three League One matches since his June 2018 recruitment from Burton.

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In such absences, Kenny Jackett’s side have collected three draws, all occurring last term, among them the infamous February 3-3 scoreline at Southend.

The 28-year-old is a pivotal figure, his crucial presence emphatically recognised through earning the players’ player of the season accolade from his peers.

During the 2018-19 campaign, Jackett’s squad lacked genuine cover for a midfield spoiler who magnificently anchors the side from one of the holding roles.

No player came close to emulating Naylor’s strengths in terms of work-rate, mobility and physicality – plus leadership.

Tom Naylor was forced off with injury during the first-half of Monday night's 2-1 win at Harrogate Town. Picture: Daniel Chesterton/PinPep

That obvious squad flaw persuaded Jackett to recruit Ross McCrorie on a season-long loan from Rangers.

Similar tenacious approaches towards enforcing the midfield area renders them unlikely to complement each other in this current first-team set-up under the Blues boss.

Nonetheless, McCrorie can step in to fill the gulf when required – should he be fit, of course.

In the 24th minute of Monday night’s FA Cup progress at Harrogate Town, Naylor was forced to retreat with a hamstring injury.

Jackett played down its severity during his post-match address, albeit the full extent of the damage still not yet certain.

However, considering the normally phlegmatic Naylor's reaction, it instantly betrayed a concern which suggests this is no minor issue.

Regardless, he joins McCrorie on the sidelines with a hamstring injury.

The task is now promoting a stand-in to replicate the quality of a player with 73 games and five goals and, as of September, entrusted with the captaincy.

Anton Walkes was handed the remaining 66 minutes of Monday evening’s 2-1 success, occupying a role previously served largely with distinction on six occasions.

Perhaps Andy Cannon can deputise, although there appear concerns he is not defensively suited for a holding-midfield role in Jackett’s 4-2-3-1.

The overwhelming truth is, however, Naylor cannot be replaced in this Pompey side.