Pompey boss pinpoints crucial area to season’s hopes

Anton Walkes and Matt Clarke, right, have both netted from recent set-pieces. Picture: Joe Pepler
Anton Walkes and Matt Clarke, right, have both netted from recent set-pieces. Picture: Joe Pepler
Former Pompey favourite Enda Stevens. Picture: Joe Pepler

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Kenny Jackett believes set-pieces could hold the key to Pompey’s season.

The Blues boss feels maintaining a threat from free-kicks and corners could prove the difference between finishing in and out of the play-offs this term.

Jackett has seen goals from corners contribute to points being harvested in two of the past three games.

Matt Clarke’s 84th-minute header paved the way for Conor Chaplin to snaffle the points in stoppage-time at MK Dons on Saturday.

That followed on from Anton Walkes’ debut goal arriving from Gareth Evans’ corner against Doncaster.

That contributed to the 2-2 draw against Darren Ferguson’s side at Fratton Park.

Threatening from set-pieces has been a theme Jackett has returned to on more than one occasion this season.

It’s an area Pompey work on in training and the 56-year-old reckons he has the players in his ranks to be a threat from such situations.

Jackett has no doubt he also possesses men who can supply the ammunition to score in the likes of Dion Donohue and Evans.

With four points currently the gap to the play-off places, the Pompey boss sees it as an area of the game which can make all the difference over the final 14 games.

Jackett said: ‘It was a good delivery from Donohue on Saturday and Clarke put that one away well. There have been a couple of games on the trot now where we’ve got goals from corners.

‘Where we have got some power in the box I do feel we have capitalised. In the past few games we have picked up points because of that.

‘Burgess, Clarke, Hawkins, Pitman and Lowe can threaten.

‘Just generally with Evans and Donohue in the side, there’s been a fair degree of consistency in the service.

‘I think if we get a high amount of free-kicks and corners it’s a key area. I think can be the difference, let’s say, between finishing ninth and fifth.’

At the other end of the pitch, set-pieces have again been a recurring talking point this term, too.

Two goals conceded in as many games against Doncaster and Shrewsbury came as result of failing to deal with corners.

That’s on top of the reverse fixture at the Keepmoat Stadium in November and an early-season effort against Cardiff. In addition, Pompey have conceded five goals from free-kicks – against Peterborough, Blackpool, Northampton, Bristol Rovers and Bradford.

While Jackett accepts it is unrealistic to eliminate danger from rivals in such situations, there is a focus on restricting opponents.

He said: ‘It’s been slightly frustrating lately with me because we had a spell where we were doubling everybody on corners and wide free-kicks and still losing the game on them. Shrewsbury comes to mind for that.

‘But it’s a couple of games on the trot now we’ve got goals from set-pieces.

‘While we’d always want to be stopping them at the other end that’s a plus.

‘MK Dons had a few chances from those situations they didn’t convert on Saturday.

‘Of course, it’s hard to stop everything going one way, though.’