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Fixture News

Defensive Delight

Clarke and Hawkins impress in both boxes

3 October 2017

Oliver Hawkins scores for Pompey against Crawley Town at Fratton Park in the Checkatrade Trophy

Pompey’s new-look central defensive partnership had another airing in the Checkatrade Trophy.

A mounting injury list meant that Oliver Hawkins lined up alongside Matt Clarke at the back against Crawley.

Their job was to keep goals out, but both also found the target at the other end to help seal a 3-1 group stage victory.

Clarke’s effort was particularly impressive, as he ran more than half the length of the pitch before feeding Curtis Main and then reacted quickly when the striker’s shot was saved.

Some might have expected him to be wrapped in cotton wool, but Joe Gallen knows that the duo need time to forge an understanding.

Pompey’s assistant manager said: “We’re struggling with defenders and we’ll keep waiting for updates on Christian Burgess until Friday.

“So we went with the two at the back having in mind that we might need the pair of them to play at Gillingham.

"Some centre-halves just look to clear their lines, but he’s not like that."

Joe Gallen

“Matt’s certainly capable of goals like that because he really is very comfortable in possession and perhaps he sometimes gets a bit bored at the back.

“Some centre-halves just look to clear their lines, but he’s not like that. He’s very composed and it was a great run, but it wasn’t a shock.

“Oli has played at centre-half before for Dagenham, probably also when they had no other available options.

“He is a striker, but needs must and it’s important to be good in both boxes, so it was pleasing to see both of them score.”

Stuart O’Keefe was also on target for the Blues and Gallen hopes the result will boost confidence ahead of their next League One contest.

He said: “It was a pretty strong side out there, while there were also some players who really needed a game.

“We were very disappointed with Saturday’s performance, so we’re pleased to respond with three goals against Crawley.

“It would have been nice to keep a clean sheet and we probably could have scored some more, but we created a lot of clear-cut chances.

“Overall we’re pleased with the display and now we need to roll that confidence into what’s a more important game at Gillingham on Sunday.

“We showed that we’ve got a strong squad and competition for places – and that’s something that’s extremely healthy.”

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