So who is the right man for Pompey?

Gareth Evans is currently Paul Cooks preferred choice at right-back Picture: Joe Pepler
Gareth Evans is currently Paul Cooks preferred choice at right-back Picture: Joe Pepler
Tareiq Holmes-Dennis in action against Bournemouth

Pompey players brave ice bath

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Amid the pleasure, there lies an incessant nagging pain.

Gareth Evans continues to wear a smile while demonstrating his ability to perform at right-back.

There was even a goal in Tuesday night’s impressive 3-1 triumph at Kenilworth Road in arguably the Blues result of the campaign so far.

Yet how he loathes his new-found Pompey niche.

Admittedly, there was a flying visit when Ben Davies hobbled off in the goalless draw at Crawley last season.

He was also pushed into the breach a week later in the Capital One Cup loss to Reading – in the interests of squad rotation.

They were one-offs, of course, an intermittent presence in a position justly dominated by the ever-green Davies.

Besides, Evans was required to deliver his brand of driving runs from the midfield’s right flank, weighing in with 10 goals.

Alas, Davies has gone, Grimsby serving as a new home, and Pompey’s popular number 26 has been press-ganged into replacing him.

Regular first-team football, undoubtedly. But Evans’ overriding desire to operate in a familiar role higher up the pitch will never be doused.

Not that Paul Cook is short of right-backs at present, particularly now the treatment room has cleared.

Drew Talbot and Adam Buxton are more conventional options, natural fits armed with plenty of Football League experience.

Then there is Calvin Davies, the local lad sidelined during pre-season through injury, yet now representing Bognor on loan, amassing 11 games and counting.

The first-year professional was last season handed a start in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy defeat at Exeter.

However, it is Evans who has lined-up in the Blues’ last 13 League Two fixtures and resolutely remains Cook’s preferred choice.

The selection policy is an intriguing one considering both Talbot and Buxton were recruited in the summer to fill the chasm left by Davies.

Arms laden with six player-of-the-season awards and 51 appearances in the legs, Davies felt he possessed compelling evidence to warrant improved terms in both wages and contract length.

The 35-year-old was to be left disappointed, as were many of the Fratton faithful who had taken his swashbuckling approach into their hearts.

In his sole Pompey season, he established himself as a massive favourite, the subject of a terrace song and even the inspiration for a T-shirt.

Davies was a highly-popular dressing room figure whose departure disappointed many team-mates.

For all the reticence to finance an improved deal, the Blues are instead paying two wages to accommodate replacements Talbot and Buxton.

In turn, it is the ever-reliable Evans who occupies the right-back slot ahead of the duo and, judging on his performances, deservedly so.

Not that criticism should be levied at the out-of-favour duo, whose impact has been unfortunately dulled through injury.

The softly-spoken Talbot’s last foray into League Two saw him collect the title with Cook’s Chesterfield, before representing them in the division above.

Now aged 30, he has also reached the League One play-offs with Sheffield Wednesday.

And although initially a striker by trade, he has played considerably more than 200 games at right-back.

Pompey’s first choice at the start of the campaign, the defence recorded three clean sheets in his opening five league appearances before a hamstring problem struck.

Ahead of today’s visit of Stevenage, Talbot had been an unused substitute in each of Pompey’s past two fixtures.

Buxton largely served at left-back for an Accrington side which last season finished an impressive fourth in League Two.

But right-back remains the 24-year-old’s preferred role and one in which he has largely served during 67 career appearances.

His four Blues outings have been restricted to the EFL Cup, Checkatrade Trophy and FA Cup, while he has been an unused substitute in three league encounters.

Irrespective of a lack of action, crucially influenced by two injury spells, Buxton has impressed with his marauding charges down the flank and a genuine relish for tackling.

In the Pompey under-23s’ recent Premier League Cup draw with Wolves, he displayed his versatility with an eye-catching midfield display.

But Davies’ monopolisation last season hardly represents the right-back norm in recent Blues history.

Whether reflecting genuine competition or dizzying instability, managers relish selection options.

During 2014-15, nine different players were employed in the position by Andy Awford, albeit some of them rather puzzlingly.

The unlikely figures of Ricky Holmes, Andy Barcham and Jed Wallace had the odd game in variations of wing-back or full-back, as did loanees Matt Fish, Josh Passley and Alex Wynter.

Adam Webster, Joe Devera and Danny East completed that season’s line-up.

The previous season saw Yassin Moutaouakil make 14 outings. Others included Daniel Alfei, Shaun Cooper, Devera, East and Webster.

In comparison, Davies’ main adversary was on-loan Kieron Freeman, who endured a miserable loan which culminated in a sending off in the last league game against Northampton.

Incidentally, Freeman has played 18 times for Sheffield United this season – a team presently basking in second in League One.

Grimsby skipper Davies has made 13 appearances, although is currently sidelined with a calf problem.

And over at Pompey, Evans is unassailable.

The midfielder who dislikes playing right-back getting the nod over three naturals.