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Sunderland 2 v 1 Portsmouth
SkyBet League One
Saturday, 17th August 2019 Kick-off 12:30
Close call seems likely again for Pompey at Sunderland
Thursday, 15th Aug 2019 21:34 by staff

Man of the moment Ben Close has been praised by Kenny Jackett for the hard work and the performances that have made him difficult to drop.

Goals in the opening two home games of the season - against Birmingham in the Cup and Tranmere in the league - have put Close in the headlines after he was left out of the opening game at Shrewsbury.

He's likely to retain his place for the first meeting of the season with Sunderland at the Stadium of Light at lunchtime on Saturday, which comes just three months after the Black Cats edged a two-leg play-off semi-final.

Boss Jackett told the club website he now wants Andy Cannon to take inspiration from Close: 'I’ve always thought that if he could find the right areas, then his technique was certainly good enough. One of his strengths is being able to receive the ball and get it out from his stronger right foot really quickly.

'We’re really pleased with his progress and now we’re looking for the likes of Andy Cannon to add goals to his game. It was frustrating for him last season, but he’s got his head down, worked incredibly hard and played well.”

Jackett is relishing the pressure of an early season visit to one of the promotion favourites, adding: 'There is always pressure, but we’re in professional football and we’re paid to deal with that. You get it at both big and small clubs and it’s something that goes with the territory. It’s a privilege to have it.

“It will be a great atmosphere on Saturday. They had 33,000 in for the last home game, although I don’t know if the early start will affect that. The stage is a big one and it’s going to be a really tough test, but it’s certainly one that we’re all really relishing.

“Both teams have changed quite a lot since last season and I’m personally really looking forward to it. We competed very well with them in the past and want to do the same again – it’s also live on television, which gives us a great chance to showcase our talents.'


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