Awford sets Holmes a Pompey challenge

Ricky Holmes. Picture: Joe Pepler
Ricky Holmes. Picture: Joe Pepler
Pompey defender Nathan Thompson

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Andy Awford has challenged Ricky Holmes to reproduce the consistency which saw him crowned Pompey’s player of the season.

The popular winger has struggled to once again scale the impressive heights of last term, with a disappointing first three months of the campaign.

Yet the Fratton faithful last weekend witnessed the return of vintage Holmes in the 3-0 success over Carlisle.

It was the 12th appearance of the campaign for the former Barnet man, who has been hampered by a back complaint since the summer.

For Awford, though, the encouraging signs were there against the Cumbrians and he wants more from Holmes.

He said: ‘That was certainly Ricky’s best game for me this season and he has suffered with a little spell with injuries.

‘I read his programme notes before the Carlisle game and he has probably held his hand up and said he has struggled a little bit at the start of the campaign after missing a bit of pre-season.

‘But he was back to his best on Saturday, he has delivered two fantastic balls for two great goals and I am really pleased for him.

‘His back has affected him, definitely. He missed pre-season and it has taken him a while to get back in and the challenge for Ricky now is to find a consistency.

‘Since the Southend game where he came off with it, we have had to be careful with him. He has trained, he has no problem training, we just have to make sure he does the right stuff around that.

‘When he gets the ball into the box like he did against Carlisle, he is valuable to us.

‘But he has got to get that consistency and be that threat in every game – that’s what we are after.’

Holmes missed the final three matches of Pompey’s pre-season after his back complaint flared up.

It also ruled him out of the opening two matches of the campaign, putting the midfielder on the back foot straight away.

On two occasions the 27-year-old has also lined-up at right wing-back during a start to the season in which he has largely struggled for form.

But the return of the 4-4-2 under Awford has reintroduced width to the Blues’ play, benefitting Holmes.

And sure enough, he had a hand in the build-up for Craig Westcarr’s opener against Carlisle.

He also produced a sumptuous chip over Courtney Meppen-Walters to put Miles Storey clean through for the second goal.

It was the kind of magic the Fratton faithful have been starved of this term.

Awford added: ‘Ricky’s taken the ball 60 or 70 yards up the pitch, which was a fantastic run – and a great ball.

‘He is like a conveyor belt, he brings the ball up the pitch for you as a team and then plays a great ball like that for the goal and what a finish by Miles.’