Jackett: Midfielder central to Pompey form

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Gareth Evans’ midfield switch has boosted Pompey’s goal threat.

That is the verdict of Kenny Jackett, who has watched his vice-captain thrive in a new-found central role for the in-form Blues.

Gareth Evans. Picture: Joe Pepler/ PinPep

Gareth Evans. Picture: Joe Pepler/ PinPep

Since returning from a hamstring problem, Evans has been employed at the heart of the system Jackett has labelled a 4-3-3.

Traditionally positioned on the right during his Pompey career, whether as a winger of attacking full-back, it represents a different remit for the popular 29-year-old.

Nonetheless, since appearing centrally as a substitute against Oxford United, Evans has started the subsequent three matches, netting the winner at Walsall.

On Saturday, a fierce first-time effort crashed against the crossbar during the 3-3 draw at Rochdale which handed the Blues a point at the death.

I wouldn’t like to be in a situation where I was leaving out either Gareth or Jamal because they are two good players

Kenny Jackett

And Jackett has been delighted with the displays delivered by the versatile former Manchester United trainee.

The Blues boss said: ‘Our three up front in Jamal Lowe, Brett Pitman and Kal Naismith have proven to be a threat, then out of the midfield three you need to make sure you have balance.

‘Gareth does give you that. Out of the players we have I think he is the most likely to get shots in and can score goals.

‘We play three in midfield and one, two or – if you are lucky – all three of them need to be able to contribute in terms of shots and getting a goal.

‘Gareth scored a vital one against Walsall and can shoot from long distance, – he fancies himself to do that.

‘The other thing he brings is really good commitment, work-rate and an excellent delivery on set-pieces.

‘In terms of putting him inside slightly, I think it can complement the players we have.

‘I wouldn’t like to be in a situation where I was leaving out either Gareth or Jamal because they are two good players and at the right time you need a variance of system.

‘He still gets crosses in and whoever else is playing in midfield can get to know the workings of the team and time their runs.

‘Ben Close got into inside-left positions in a few different situations at Walsall but didn’t finish. If you know you have Lowe, Evans or Thompson going down one side, the left-hand side and middle of the team should be able to pick up chances and goals.

‘I think the three-man midfield suits Gareth. He is very capable and if we need to go slightly more direct and open up a little bit, he can come out on the right-hand side quite seamlessly.’

Pompey’s upsurge in form has coincided with the return of experienced performers such as Evans.

Now they stand one point off fifth-placed Plymouth – their next opposition.

Jackett added: ‘Gareth has put in good performances since coming back, as have Brett Pitman and Nathan Thompson.

‘There is a cycle of the team. There’s times when you need a few youngsters to go in, just to freshen it up, but we are in a period of the season where we did need some experience.

‘And Gareth has come in and been part of that.’