Pompey boss: Adam Barton is staying in my defence
Paul Cook has dismissed the notion Adam Barton is a central-defensive stop-gap.
And the Pompey boss is adamant even the return of his injured defenders would not dislodge the 25-year-old from the side at Hartlepool.
Barton was granted his first start since January for the midweek trip to AFC Wimbledon.
With Adam Webster, Michael Clarke and Jack Whatmough sidelined, Cook again looked to the central midfielder.
The former Coventry player had lined-up at centre-half on three previous occasions for the Blues.
That included the goalless stalemate against Luton and a 2-2 draw at Ipswich in the FA Cup.
Barton once again impressed in his unfamiliar role during the subsequent 1-0 victory at Kingsmeadow which secured a League Two play-off spot.
That impressive display drew gushing praise from his manager.
And despite Whatmough now being available following a back niggle, Barton will continue at centre-half tomorrow.
Cook said: ‘If every centre-half at the club was fit at the moment, we would still not leave Adam out tomorrow.
‘You can’t play like he did on Tuesday night and be left out.
‘If fit, Jack Whatmough would probably have played Tuesday instead of Adam, that’s football.
‘But Adam Barton came in and was excellent. He is such a good reader of the game and never gets himself into trouble.
‘We never came under great pressure, it wasn’t a game where it was backs to the wall.
‘Wimbledon had good spells, don’t get me wrong, but there were never any chances – and a lot of that is down to how well Adam reads the game.
‘A lot of managers see him play centre-half and feel they can expose him, but he never gets exposed.
‘Adam Barton is such a natural footballer I am not so sure there is a position on the pitch he couldn’t play.
‘Ipswich away was one of our best performances and the front two were Luke Varney and Brett Pitman, a lively pair.
‘Luton came here with Paul Benson and Jack Marriott, Wimbledon changed every striker and forward player on the pitch, starting with Tom Elliott and Lyle Taylor and bringing on Rhys Murphy, Jake Reeves and Ade Azeez.
‘Adam did well against them all. People say you are weakening your team putting him in there – are we?’
Barton will continue to partner Christian Burgess in defence for tomorrow’s visit to Victoria Park.
And Cook delights in the duo’s ability on the ball.
He added: ‘As a team, if we want to handle the ball well people must be comfortable. If you look at our centre-halves, they can all handle the ball well.
‘Realistically, we are not really going to look to sign centre-halves who can’t handle the ball. Other people would say a centre-half has to defend first, everyone is different.
‘My argument at the end of the season is you can all play how you want, but the league will determine who has been successful.’