All change in defence – much to Appy’s frustration

Gabor Gyepes receives treatment at Crawley
Gabor Gyepes receives treatment at Crawley

Michael Appleton has already used 13 players in defensive positions this season.

What’s more, he’s now weighing up adding to that alarming statistic.

Fate has once again been harsh on the Blues boss after Gabor Gyepes hobbled off against Crawley on Sunday.

The Hungarian defender injured his left ankle, bringing an abrupt end to his Pompey debut just 40 minutes in.

Regardless, his reshuffled backline achieved their first clean sheet of the campaign – at the seventh time of asking.

During that period, injuries, suspensions and the prohibitive squad size have conspired against Appleton in his first-team plans.

Gyepes represents number 13 in terms of players who have occupied a spot in the back four – with only seven matches of the season gone.

The Blues have also employed 10 different central-defensive partnerships.

Left-back Jon Harley is the only ever-present in defence, while Long and Paul Connolly have both each made five appearances.

Groin-injury victim Connolly has since returned to parent club Leeds.

Others who have served in defence include Adam Webster, Mustapha Dumbuya, Alex Grant, Ashley Westwood, Dan Butler, Josh Thompson and Johnny Ertl.

In addition, Sam Magri and Darel Russell have dropped back from the centre of midfield to plug a hole during a match.

Now the numbers have been whittled down again following the Gyepes setback – and Appleton is once more at his wit’s end.

He said: ‘We’re in a position where we can only have 20 players and it seems like it’s every week where I am looking for defenders on loan.

‘We are having to move things around because of suspensions and injuries.

‘But yet again, we get a central defender in and he gets injured.

‘I don’t know how many central defenders I have played so far this season but trust me, it’s not through choice.

‘We’ve been a bit unlucky and we will have to look at it again and see what we can do.

‘If we can only do something by shipping someone out to get someone in, we may have to do that and it might be unfortunate for someone.’

Grant and Westwood were the central defenders in the season opener against Plymouth in the Capital One Cup.

They were flanked by full-backs Webster and Dan Butler, only for Westwood to suffer ankle ligament damage after 30 minutes.

Magri deputised in that role for the remainder of the match, having initially been selected as a central midfielder.

A whole new team lined-up for the first match of the League One campaign, with the defence made up of Dumbuya, Long, Connolly and Harley.

After Long was sent off against Carlisle, Ertl stepped in for the next match.

He partnered Connolly in the centre of defence against Oldham, scoring an own goal to settle a 1-0 defeat.

When Ertl was substituted, Russell moved back to cover.

In the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy victory over Bournemouth, new-boy Thompson made his debut.

Then it was the turn of Gyepes at Crawley, an appearance which has left Appleton seeking defender number 14.