Converted centre-half Oli Hawkins hailed as rare Portsmouth positive by Kenny Jackett

Following a 19-month absence, Oli Hawkins was back in Pompey’s starting XI as a centre-half.

Monday, 23rd September 2019, 9:00 am
Oli Hawkins, seen here tussling with Adebayo Akinfenwa, impressed Kenny Jackett on his central-defensive return against Wycombe. Picture: Nigel Keene

And while the Blues suffered a dismal 1-0 defeat in Saturday’s trip to Wycombe, the striker’s defensive display was a positive for Kenny Jackett.

Adebayo Akinfenwa’s 83rd-minute penalty following Tom Naylor’s handball was enough to separate the sides in a terrible match.

While many of the Blues’ side under-delivered, the new-look central-defensive partnership of Christian Burgess and Hawkins should escape criticism.

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He last lined-up in the role during a 2-1 victory at MK Dons in February 2018.

And Jackett praised the 27-year-old’s man-of-the-match display.

Pompey's boss said: ‘Oli played there a few campaigns ago and is one of the players disrupted early season because of injury.

Oli Hawkins, seen here tussling with Adebayo Akinfenwa, impressed Kenny Jackett on his central-defensive return against Wycombe. Picture: Nigel Keene

‘The Leasing.com Trophy game against Norwich under-21s was a good chance to get some minutes under his belt and he looked very comfortable – I thought he and Christian then had a good partnership at Wycombe.

‘Many times centre-halves are about partnerships and maybe Christian and Paul Downing are similar in that if they play with a dominant one, somebody very good in the air, then that maybe can be their strength.

‘I left Paul out because I wanted to give Hawkins and Burgess a chance as a partnership and to see how it looked.

‘It was one of the positives, although obviously the team’s overall performance wasn’t and certainly going forward we can do better than that.

‘However, as a two, they are experienced-enough players and it will be interesting how it develops. A good centre-half pairing is a big one for a successful side and consistent team.’

Meanwhile, James Bolton made his full debut in League One for the Blues.

His return to right-back allowed Burgess to move across to the centre of defence.

Jackett added: ‘James did fine, when the game went down to 10 men I took a defender off and kept Andy (Cannon) down that side and got Brett on.

‘This week is the first time he has really felt 100 per cent with his ankle, hopefully he can build on his debut.’