Awford’s Pompey rock continues to stand firm

Joe Devera has been rock solid for Pompey this season Picture: Joe Devera
Joe Devera has been rock solid for Pompey this season Picture: Joe Devera
Pompey boss Kenny Jackett. Picture: Joe Pepler

Pompey boss points to lack of cutting edge

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He’s been Andy Awford’s rock, an immovable force in an ever-shifting starting line-up.

An on-going first-team presence is representative of the high regard Joe Devera currently possesses within Pompey circles.

On Tuesday night the 27-year-old surprised all with a left-footed shot from distance which proved to be the match-winner against Stevenage.

Unquestionably atoning for his error five minutes earlier, when a weak headed back pass to Paul Jones was intercepted by Chris Beardsley to level matters.

For Awford, it was a rare mistake from one of his most consistent performers in what is threatening to be a frustrating Blues campaign.

Devera played just once under then-caretaker boss Awford last term as he kept the club in the Football League during a seven-match stint.

Yet with 13 starts so far this season, the versatile defender finds himself embedded in his first-teams plans.

Awford said: ‘Joe is as solid as a rock and has been all season, I have been very impressed with him.

‘I think he has been excellent for us this year – whether we have played a three or a four, he hasn’t let anybody down and I am delighted for him to get a goal.

‘He comes in every day, is a great pro, does his work to the best of his ability, never lets anybody down.

‘For him to get the winner after making a poor error on Tuesday night was fantastic and I am delighted for him he has managed to atone for it.

‘Forget the goal being conceded, after that mistake he still wanted the ball and still defended properly, which showed his character.

‘I could easily have brought him off and put Dan Butler on or Johnny Ertl, but I thought: “Go on Joe, you show them because you are a great lad”.

‘He has been very reliable all season and now he is the surprising goal-scoring winner for us.’

Devera didn’t even make the squad for the opening match of the season at Exeter, although still travelled with the team.

He was also left out of the match-day 18 for the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy 3-1 victory at Yeovil as Awford rotated his players.

Otherwise, the former Swindon player has been a regular in the team, establishing himself as a key performer, regardless of the system employed.

Devera has been utilised as a conventional central defender, although, in the main, featured as an automatic choice as part of the back three in Awford’s much-maligned 3-5-2 system.

With the Blues boss scrapping that formation in favour of a 4-4-2 for Tuesday night’s visit of Stevenage, he was switched to right-back.

It is a role he served 11 times last season – in addition to five appearances at left-back – although Awford acknowledges it is not ideal.

‘Joe previously played almost a whole season at right-back. I don’t think it is his best position, I don’t think it is his preferred position,’ added Awford.

‘But Alex Wynter had a tight hamstring so he wasn’t available, Adam Webster is not available, and Joe was the obvious person to go and slot in there.’