Comment: Pompey must release Evans’ shackles – and sign another right-back

Gareth Evans has been operating at right-back this season for Pompey Picture: Joe Pepler
Gareth Evans has been operating at right-back this season for Pompey Picture: Joe Pepler
Pompey fans enjoyed a 2-1 win on their last visit to the Memorial Stadium. Picture: Joe Pepler

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Drew Talbot and Adam Buxton retain their manager’s unbreakable faith.

At least that is the public stance adopted when confronted by the Fratton faithful’s glare.

Staunch defence of his summer signings may be admirable, but Paul Cook’s team selection represents a wildly contrasting opinion.

Gareth Evans has lined up as Pompey’s right-back for the past 20 league games.

It’s an ongoing period of domination which has long surpassed Talbot and Buxton’s injury-enforced time on the sidelines.

The emergency stand-in, the accidental full-back, has suddenly established himself as first choice.

And the fit-again pair, whose seat he was helpfully keeping warm, now cannot even find a way back into Cook’s match-day 18.

In truth, from this point it is difficult to comprehend how Talbot and Buxton can retain any semblance of hope towards returning to the Blues’ first team.

Meanwhile, the all-conquering Evans hankers for a return to his customary midfield role – and how Pompey need him pushed forward.

Cook has made recruiting a physical centre-forward his cast-iron priority during the transfer window.

However, a new right-back is also a necessity, irrespective of the manager’s public backing of the deposed duo.

The Blues have noticeably missed the thrusting attacking runs down either flank from the tireless Evans.

Last term he contributed 10 goals, all from open play, during Pompey’s play-off charge, while was crowned the Sky Bet League Two Player of the Month for December.

A free transfer arrival from Fleetwood, his direct running and willingness to surge into the penalty area ensured he was regarded as one of the Blues’ outstanding performers last term.

Following the unexpected positional switch, he has continued to serve with customary heart, endeavour and determination during forays down that right flank.

Nobody could ever question Evans’ commitment or ability, yet his talents are clearly required elsewhere.

Carl Baker, with six goals and one of Cook’s summer signing successes, has been an ever-present on the right in League Two this season.

His chief midfield rival should be Evans, a player who possesses less guile on the ball yet more running penetration. Instead, the 28-year-old serves at right-back.

In a 28-man squad blessed with competition for places, the challenge for the right-side of the attacking three has been shackled.

In the meantime, Talbot has made one appearance since August and been included in three of Pompey’s past 24 squads.

Buxton has yet to make his League Two debut for Pompey, with all his four starts arriving in cup competitions.

He has featured in three league squads since August, although was among the 20 players who travelled to Doncaster last week.

Such statistics emphasise their slipping from the first-team frame and, if managerial faith has indeed been lost, must now be moved on.

And for Evans’ sake – and Pompey’s – a new right-back is required.