Hawkins prompts Pompey transfer rethink

Oli Hawkins. Picture: Joe Pepler
Oli Hawkins. Picture: Joe Pepler
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Oli Hawkins’ versatility is convincing Kenny Jackett to shelve plans for recruiting a central defender.

Instead another new left-back is the priority upon the January reopening of the transfer window.

We have Burgess, Clarke and then Hawkins, it would be tough to recruit another one of their quality

Kenny Jackett

Such have been Hawkins’ displays as a makeshift centre-half, Pompey’s boss is being persuaded to focus on strengthening elsewhere.

With Jack Whatmough in rehabilitation following knee ligament damage, Christian Burgess and Matt Clarke are his only central defenders.

Now Hawkins has added to those options, impressing hugely since switching from his natural striking role.

The 25-year-old has started six matches in defence since arriving on deadline day, including the Blues’ last four fixtures.

With Burgess missing out against Plymouth this weekend through suspension, Hawkins will retain his place.

And the converted striker has won the admiration of Jackett.

He said: ‘It’s maybe hard for me to sign a centre-back that is going to be better than Oli – and particularly with Burgess and Clarke here already.

‘That is the case at the moment and it’s good for us. Oli has played six games at centre-back and we have won five of them.

‘I would like to stress, from his point of view, he has just come out of non-league, he’s trying to establish himself as a league player and is delighted to be at Portsmouth. He is happy to be variable.

‘Whether I need him as a centre-half or centre-forward, he is happy enough to be variable as long as he is playing.

‘It has been an asset for us because at times we would have struggled without Oli.

‘We have Burgess, Clarke and then Hawkins, it would be tough to recruit another one (central defender) of their quality.’

Jackett’s decision to move Clarke over to left-back has created space for Hawkins.

Clarke has now featured in his own unfamiliar role for the last three matches, although will most likely replace the suspended Burgess on Saturday.

Pompey have already lost Tareiq Holmes-Dennis and Damien McCrory through injury, while Brandon Haunstrup, Dion Donohue and Joe Hancott have also featured at left-back this season.

And Jackett will again attempt to resolve the ongoing problem in January.

He added: ‘We’ve had many different people play there and I think it would be safe to say in January left-back is a position we would like to improve on.

‘Damien is still no nearer. He still feels his knee and isn’t in full training yet. Time is running on and obviously it is towards the end of his loan.

‘He is working with the Burton, people but so far, in terms of his recovery, the knee is not really responding and he is still feeling it.

‘I think Matt Clarke is good enough to do it because he is good on the ball as well, but we will see.’