Tommy Smith happy for Town to target defensive rivals

TOMMY Smith has no problem with Paul Jewell bringing in a rival centre-back – in fact he positively welcomes it.

As the Town boss readies himself for an improved bid for Portsmouth defender Jason Pearce, and his team mate Joel Ward, the pressure to perform intensifies on players like Smith.

But the 21-year-old’s message to Jewell is ‘bring it on’ as he looks to put aside a horror start to the season – including getting sent off in the 7-1 mauling at Peterborough after just 72 seconds – which he admits was the worst moment of his young career.

The defender said: “That was the lowest point of my career. Even before the Peterborough match, I wasn’t performing well enough at the beginning of the season and the manager was right to change me.

“I just told myself that I had to get my head down, work hard in training and hopefully get back in the manager’s plans by becoming a better player.”

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But after starting the last two matches, Smith is ready to start fulfilling his potential and prove he is worth a place in Jewell’s much-changed squad.

He said: “I have been working hard in training so I think I deserved my chance. Hopefully I can carry on performing for as long as the manager calls upon me.”

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Smith is focusing all his energies on helping to improve the second worst defence in English professional football – starting with the hunt for their first clean sheet in seven matches.

On a personal level, he will also be looking to convince supporters – and maybe even the manager – of his worth after his reputation was tarnished by his part in the 5-2 home defeat by Southampton and then his incredible red card just over a minute after coming on against Peterborough days later.

But in the back of his mind will be the fact Jewell is searching high and low for at least one new centre-back, possibly to replace him.

While Pompey boss Michael Appleton has laughed off Town’s first offer for Pearce, it is understood Jewell has upped his bid – and the manager also admitted yesterday he had other defensive targets in mind.

But the determined Smith said: “Everyone relishes the challenge of someone coming in and competing for your place – I see it as motivation.

“It makes you a better player as you have to work harder to keep your place.

“You always have to stay positive and believe in yourself. If I keep performing as well as I can do, hopefully I will give him (Jewell) a problem and he won’t be able to drop me as easily as he did earlier in the season.”

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