Barker succeeding in clean sheets where predecessors struggled

Ben Chorley. Picture: Joe Pepler
Ben Chorley. Picture: Joe Pepler

It’s an association Richie Barker has indicated he wants to steadily distance himself from.

After all, there is little credit to be reaped from supporters by creating a defensively mighty Pompey side in an entertainment industry.

Nonetheless, a goalless draw at Chesterfield on Monday night represented an impressive seventh clean sheet in his 15 matches in charge of the Blues.

Once League Two’s worst defence, they are now collecting shut outs on a regular basis – three coming on their travels and the latest at the league leaders.

Or as Barker himself referred to it post-match: ‘That’s not bad going for a team which probably has the worst defensive record.

‘But we don’t want to be known for that, we want to be known for entertaining football and hard work. It’s small steps.’

Not that clean sheets have been commonplace during Pompey’s plummet down the leagues and upon Barker’s appointment he felt it necessarily to swiftly tighten up.

Considering the team has found itself in yet another relegation battle, he has focused on a solid defence providing the backbone to any recovery.

Still, Guy Whittingham claimed four clean sheets in his 21 matches in charge this season, displaying a constant defensive struggle which contributed to his departure.

At one point in November, Pompey conceded at least two goals in six successive matches, Whittingham at the helm for the first five of those.

It was an ongoing headache he failed to remedy on the training ground – despite no doubt frequent attention – with his side particularly vulnerable from corners.

It can be argued since Barker’s arrival the defensive problem has been largely rectified, although there was the blip at Scunthorpe.

In fact, all seven of the clean sheets under the ex-Crawley boss so far have come in the last 13 matches, three of them chalked up in the past four.

That is precisely the same amount Whittingham managed in his 30 matches in charge last season, the majority recorded during a superb end to the campaign.

The 2012-13 season had actually started with Michael Appleton in charge.

By the time he departed for Blackpool, he had collected only two clean sheets in 18 fixtures, another disappointing haul.

In fact, Appleton only ever totalled eight shut outs in his entire Pompey career of 51 matches – with Barker already just one short of equalling that.

As for Steve Cotterill, he recorded three from his opening 33 games in charge of the club at the beginning of the 2010-11 campaign.

Then arrived six successive clean sheets to equal a post-war club record.

In addition, on March 9, 2011, with Jamie Ashdown in goal, the post-war league record of 636 minutes without conceding was beaten.

Now Barker is the boss and proving how a solid defence is the perfect platform for climbing a league table.