Hawkins hailed for role in Pompey triumph

Oli Hawkins wins a header for Pompey at Gillingham. Picture: Joe Pepler
Oli Hawkins wins a header for Pompey at Gillingham. Picture: Joe Pepler
Gary Roberts goes through on goal for Wigan in their FA Cup win against Manchester City. Picture: PA Images

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Kenny Jackett lauded his makeshift defender’s role in helping Pompey to back-to-back wins.

Oli Hawkins delivered an excellent display as Jackett’s men picked up a 1-0 success at Gillingham.

The 25-year-old was a pillar of strength after being shifted from his usual position up front to the middle of the Blues’ defence.

That performance helped Pompey to a clean sheet and three points in the Sky-televised clash.

With Christian Burgess still sidelined, Jackett decided to employ fit-again Nathan Thompson at right-back and continue with Hawkins in the centre – after his impressive display against Crawley Town in the Checkatrade Trophy on Tuesday night.

He was rewarded with a man-of-the-match performance from the former non-league hitman.

Jackett pinpointed the aerial power of Hawkins as a key factor to picking up three points.

He said: ‘I thought it would be the kind of game where the centre-halves would need to win a lot of headers.

‘Oli did exactly that. He was the right person at the right time.

‘They have been struggling slightly and picked a big, physical team.

‘They had two big lads up front so we needed someone who could head it.

‘Without that, the ball is dropping in and around our box and it’s very difficult to defend. If the first ball is being won by your central defenders it takes away so much of the attacking threat.

‘Oli can do that for us at both ends of the pitch.

‘He didn’t look like a makeshift defender and he has a good way about him.

‘He has composure for us a player and was definitely an asset for us.’

The clean sheet was Pompey’s fourth of the season and provided the platform for the second win in a week.

Jackett took heart from that and is hoping his side can now build some consistency when they face MK Dons this weekend.

The 55-year-old feels getting it right at the back is going to prove key to where his team go this season in League One.

Pompey now sit three points off the play-offs.

They are 13th after 12 games of the campaign.

Jackett added: ‘It’s great getting back-to-back league wins, though I know it includes the Checkatrade. Winning is a good habit.

‘It was a tight game but I’m delighted to come away from home and get the win.

‘The key for us is our defending.

‘If we can get our defensive play right we have the forwards who will gain in confidence.

‘There are options along the front positions.

‘We have Pitman to come back, Conor Chaplin and Oli Hawkins can go back up front.

‘There are good options and I’m confident in that area.

‘The back four and midfield need to give us a platform to go off so we can build some belief and confidence.’