MANAGER Eddie Howe believes a positional switch could pay handsome dividends for Cherries and Joe Partington.
Howe and assistant Jason Tindall – both defenders during their playing days – are in the process of converting Partington from central midfield to central defence.
A product of the club’s youth system, Portsmouth-born Partington this season forced his way into the starting line-up and featured in Cherries’ first 13 games.
However, despite being a regular squad member, the 22-year-old has been used sparingly since Howe took charge in October, making five brief substitute appearances.
Howe told the Daily Echo: “Joe is someone we have always enjoyed working with. First and foremost, he has an excellent appetite and attitude for the game. He is a very conscientious worker and a really valued member of the squad.
“When we first came back, we identified that we had strength in depth in central midfield with Harry Arter, Eunan O’Kane, Richard Hughes and Shaun MacDonald, all players who would potentially play ahead of Joe.
“We had a look at his position and felt he had all the attributes to be a centre-half so have done a lot of work behind the scenes in trying to develop his game.
“He is a versatile performer and can play a number of different positions. That is always useful when you have got a squad trying to achieve things.”
Partington, who was capped by Wales at under-21 level, has suffered his fair share of injury problems since graduating to the professional ranks. Rewarded with a two-year con tract by Howe in June 2009, he signed a further two-and-a-half year deal in February 2011.
Howe added: “He is growing into, hopefully, what will prove to be really important years of his career. I would love to see him nail down a regular place. That is very much in Joe’s hands.”
- Meanwhile, Cherries will tonight discover their Hampshire Senior Cup semi-final opponents when the draw is made on BBC Radio Solent.
Goalkeeper Benji Buchel’s heroics helped book Cherries a place in the last four following their penalty shoot-out triumph over Eastleigh last month.
Cherries will go into the hat alongside Southern League outfits AFC Totton and Sholing, and Wessex Premier leaders Alresford Town.
The semi-finals are due to take place on Tuesday, March 5 with the club drawn first having home advantage in the one-legged ties.
Cherries should have an extra incentive to progress as the final could be staged at Dean Court, although this has not been confirmed.
The draw will be broadcast on Solent’s Non-League Show following the conclusion of Southampton’s Premier League clash with Manchester City at around 7.40pm.
Draw numbers: 1 – AFC Totton, 2 – Cherries, 3 – Sholing, 4 – Alresford Town.