Forgotten man proving his Pompey worth

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Richie Barker saluted the re-emergence of forgotten man Bondz N’Gala and joked: I wouldn’t want to face him.

The towering defender has established himself back in the first team over the past two matches, helping Pompey keep two clean sheets in the process.

Bondz N'Gala Picture: Joe Pepler

Bondz N'Gala Picture: Joe Pepler

Up until his shock return to the starting line-up against Accrington Stanley last week, the 24-year-old had been out-of-favour for the previous eight matches.

During that period, N’Gala failed to even make the match-day 18-man squad on three occasions.

But with Joe Devera injured and Sonny Bradley making way following the Scunthorpe hammering, he was given another opportunity to shine.

Such have been his impressive subsequent showings, tomorrow N’Gala is expected to retain his place for the visit of Cheltenham.

And Barker has been delighted with the response of the centre-back to his second chance under his reign.

He said: ‘I would say, physically, Bondz is lasting games now, whereas that was an issue before – and probably mentally he is also making better decisions.

‘But I think that comes with the fact, physically, he is in a better place. When you get tired you make poor decisions and he is not as tired as he used to be.

‘I have said for a long time there are always technical issues. But at this level, physical and mental strengths are the two things that are going to get us promoted.

‘He takes pride in defending. I would say he is wonderfully uncomplicated and, without being patronising to him, knows his limits. He knows what he is good at.

‘He also knows what he’s not very good at. And I wouldn’t want to play against him!

‘To be fair, he has waited for his chance and got on with it. He’s never been a minute’s hassle, still comes in and does all his work.

‘When we do defending sessions he concentrates, he listens. You can see him thinking “If I get my chance, I need to know what the person alongside me is doing”, so I think he has got rewards for that.

‘We have not suddenly solved it, though he is going to have to keep working and looking over his shoulder because there are a few people who want his shirt.’

N’Gala had appeared in only three of Barker’s first 13 matches in charge.

That lack of action raised the likelihood his contract would not be extended upon its summer expiry.

Now the ex-West Ham defender has started the past two games and his displays are impressing.

Barker added: ‘At that particular time, Joe and Sonny were doing okay, then Ben (Chorley) came in and they were doing okay and Bondz wasn’t.

‘He wasn’t in the team that was keeping clean sheets and becoming harder to beat, so he had to bide his time.

‘Now he is being rewarded for that patience.’