Jackett’s delighted striker ‘gamble’ is paying off

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FOR Kenny Jackett, it was the ‘gamble’ on a non-league performer which has reaped dividends.  

And with Oli Hawkins having registered his 50th appearance, Pompey’s boss is convinced the striker will get even better.

Oli Hawkins Picture: Joe Pepler

Oli Hawkins Picture: Joe Pepler

The Blues entertain Burton tonight, with Jackett weighing up whether to retain Saturday’s match-winner in attack.

Hawkins’ 50th-minute header against Fleetwood was his second of the season – and 10th overall following an August 2017 switch from Dagenham & Redbridge for an undisclosed fee.

There have been times operating off the bench, on occasions he has served as a central defender.

Yet the 26-year-old has started more matches than Brett Pitman this season, with his manager convinced he can continue to improve.

Jackett said: ‘Oli is a very good target man. So far this season his hold-up play has been outstanding and work in both boxes and set-pieces very, very good.

‘Looking at the chances he gets, maybe there’s the conversation rate – and perhaps wanting to turn more of them into goals, definitely.

‘But he’s a different type of centre-forward to Brett Pitman or Joe Mason, the other boys we have.

‘As a centre-forward you need players that can play with back to goal, that can hold the ball up. Somewhere along the line you need that, whether they play 90 minutes of every game or as a substitute.

‘So far Oli’s hold-up play has really helped and been an assets to a high number of goals.

‘In terms of coming from Dagenham, he was ready for the step into the Football League and, from our point of view, was worth a gamble. He has proven a good asset for us so far.

‘Going into his second season in league football, I still think there is a lot of improvement in him to come.

‘He’s of an age where he is coming into his good years and can build on what he has done, quite naturally he has a lot of progression in him.’

Jamal Lowe and Ronan Curtis are presently Pompey’s joint-top scorers with six goals each.

And Jackett believes Hawkins has been ‘key’ to their goal-scoring impacts.

He added: ‘Oli has been a key part in our performances and wins.

‘I have been pleased with what he has done this season.

‘Particularly our two wide boys have been getting most of our chances and are top scorers at the moment – and Oli has obviously helped bring them into the game.’