Pompey boss: Tactical changes paid off

They were two tactical changes implemented by Kenny Jackett.

Monday, 2nd April 2018, 6:30 am
Gareth Evans. Picture: Joe Pepler

And it paid dividends as Pompey’s play-off push ploughs on ahead to maintain a fascinating finale to the season.

The Blues boss recalled Gareth Evans to his side for Saturday’s trip to Walsall, replacing Connor Ronan in a central midfield role.

Although occupying that position as a substitute in the previous win over Oxford United, it represented an unfamiliar task for the 29-year-old.

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In addition, a surprise was sprung with Anton Walkes switching positions with Nathan Thompson in Jackett’s starting XI.

Thompson reverted to his customary right-back spot, with Walkes handed a man-marking job on the Saddlers’ 16-goal top-scorer Erhun Otzumer.

The outcome saw Evans claim the only goal of the game at the Bescot Stadium, while a muted Otzumer was substituted on 84 minutes.

A triumph for Pompey – and a triumph for their boss.

Jackett said: ‘We decided to start where we finished last week, they gave us quite a strong performance towards the end.

‘I understand Oxford were down to 10-men, but that is never easy. We made it look easy and were very dominant in that particular period – and with Gareth we were willing to continue with that.

‘It was a little bit tough on Connor Ronan, but Gareth has been a big personality and I thought Saturday was a day for as much experience as we could get into the team.

‘He played more centrally, but we have flexibility, he still gets into wide areas putting very good balls into the box, while it allows Jamal Lowe at the right time to go and link in.

‘Gareth is a strong, hard-working and experienced player and we have needed that, certainly we needed it at Walsall.

‘He’s got good delivery from set-pieces, good work-rate, is popular with the crowd and our vice captain.

‘And he got a really crucial goal for us.’

Pompey today host Wigan, with Jackett weighing up whether to make changes for a second match in 72 hours.

Certainly he will consider Walkes retaining his place in a new role for the Blues.

He added: ‘Anton had a man-marking job to a degree on Oztumer, that was the reason for putting him in there.

‘Oztumer is a dangerous player, look at his goal return and he’s a big player for Walsall. It’s not always easy, but if you can keep him quiet it can be decisive.

‘Number one, you need to find some way of stopping the opposition, then you can build on that and go on to play some good football and score goals.

‘Anton marked him very well, proven by Oztumer’s substitution on 84 minutes.

‘I felt Nathan needed to get back into right-back, to get back to what he knows. Anton is a variable player, he can handle that type of job.

‘He can play right centre-half, right-back and central midfield, you need a player or two like that in your squad as injuries and suspensions come.’