Gallen: Pompey striker can bully defenders
Joe Gallen believes Oli Hawkins has all the attributes to bully defenders.
But the Blues assistant manager insists the striker won’t be utilised as just a big target man.
Hawkins has been in fine form since returning to his favoured striking role against Northampton last weekend.
The former Dagenham & Redbridge talent was at the double in Kenny Jackett’s side’s 3-1 win over the Cobblers, while he gave Pompey the lead in their 2-1 defeat at Bristol Rovers on New Year’s Day.
All three of those goals were headers, taking Hawkins’ goalscoring tally to seven this season.
Gallen revealed the Blues have worked on the former non-league talent making a nuisance of himself at the back post.
He said: ‘Oli is big enough and strong enough to bully defenders at the back post.
‘When he first joined we were practising that quite a lot.
‘To use a non-technical term, we want him “beating people up” at the far post or bullying full-backs – invariably full-backs are smaller than centre-backs.
‘We want him to be pulling on those players or when the ball is wide in the final third and we’re going to put in a cross, he’s got to be there coming in and battering centre-halves.
‘But definitely the full-backs who are a bit smaller than him and a bit weaker.
‘He did that for his second goal against Northampton.
‘It was a pretty classic number nine goal and his first was excellent, too.’
Hawkins’ second goal against the Cobblers was engineered from a long diagonal ball from Christian Burgess.
He rose to meet the ball and headed over Northampton goalkeeper Matt Ingram from the edge of the box.
Although it was route-one football, Gallen is adamant Pompey will not be constantly pumping the ball up to the 6’ 5” hit man – although he admits it is an attribute they will naturally utilise.
‘To generate that much power should give him a lot of belief and confidence,’ the assistant boss added.
‘It was a good ball from Christian, a good longer pass – which is fine.
‘That’s something we have worked on but not Oli heading in from that distance!
‘However, there’s no lumping the ball up to him.
‘We’ve never said to any team to lump it up to anyone.
‘It’s always a longer pass and there’s nothing wrong with short passing and there’s nothing wrong with long passing.
‘We try to set the team up that has the option of a pass to feet and a pass in behind – that’s pretty standard stuff.
‘But when Oli does play it naturally brings that diagonal pass into play where he can pull off in the space between the full-backs and the centre-halves.
‘You can pass it to him and he can take it on his chest or win a header and we can regain possession higher up the pitch.
‘When Oli plays centre-forward, it’s natural to use his physical attributes, his height and ability in the air.’