Jackett prescribes defensive steel to remedy travel sickness

KENNY JACKETT is calling on his defenders to show their resilience at Gillingham, as Pompey look to start 2020 by registering only their third away league win of the season.

The Portsmouth boss is certain to bring in reinforcements at the back in the January transfer window, as their miserable form on their travels threatens to derail a charge towards the top six.

Pompey are the only side in the division unbeaten at home in the league this season – picking up 26 of their 34 points on Portsea Island. Their away form, however, is relegation material, with only Wimbledon, MK Dons, Southend, Tranmere and Bolton registering worse records.

They have conceded seven goals in their last two away games against sides fighting at the bottom of the division, and Jackett is aware their promotion hopes hinge on turning around their form away from the south coast.

“You can analyse any individual performance, but the truth is that we haven’t done enough on the road this season,” said Jackett, whose side face a Gillingham team looking to record an eighth straight home win in all competitions.

“There have been too many goals that we’ve conceded and times when we weren’t in the games, so that has to improve.”

Jackett is demanding a much-improved performance from his defence against a side that sit just two points below Portsmouth, and his forwards will also need to be sharp with Steve Evans’ team conceding just once in their last eight games at Priestfields.

Pompey’s away form is in sharp contrast to their home record: back-to-back clean sheets and wins at Fratton Park against the top two sides sandwiched in-between demoralising defeats at Accrington and MK Dons.

“They’re (Gillingham) in good form at the moment and we know it’s a really hard place to go and get a result,” said Jackett.

“We certainly have to be more defensively resilient than we were at MK Dons on Sunday because we don’t want successive defeats.

“There are four away games in a row now, but that can happen when you’re still in two cup competitions. We have to be ready for all of these matches and try our best to bounce back with a positive result on New Year’s Day.”

Jackett may be forced to field the same defence that leaked three goals on Saturday, with a raft of injuries to players that could come into the starting XI. One player who won’t be considered, however, is Jack Whatmough, but the 23-year-old has been pencilled in to make a long-awaited return from a knee injury in the Leasing.com Trophy match at Walsall next week.