Sports writer Will Rooney looks back on Pompey’s 1-0 win at Bradford and picks out the talking points.
EVANS SURELY ON WAY TO NEW DEAL
The likes of Ronan Curtis and Jamal Lowe have dominated the headlines for Pompey this campaign.
Yet Gareth Evans has been just as important for Kenny Jackett’s table-topping side.
Having found himself in and out of the Blues boss’ starting line-up last season – at times not even in the match-day 18 – he’s now one of the first on the team sheet.
Evans has reinvented himself in the number-10 role, keeping the likes of Brett Pitman and Joe Mason confined to the substitutes’ bench.
The ex-Fleetwood man netted his fifth goal of the campaign at Bradford, firing Pompey to a 1-0 victory.
He’s now only a goal behind Curtis and Lowe in the scoring charts. And if he continues at the same ratio, Evans will finish the season with his best-ever tally.
The 30-year-old’s finish at Valley Parade was a composed one. He opted to forcefully use the side of his boot to steer his effort beyond a small crowd of players and into the net.
Evans is a firm favourite among the supporters. That’s not just because of the song he belted out on Southsea Common during the League Two title celebrations, either.
His work-rate and doggedness off the ball don’t go unnoticed, while he’s showed his cutting edge in the final edge.
Evans’ exploits this season surely mean he’s on his way to winning a new Fratton Park deal.
His current contract runs out in June and, barring his form doesn’t drastically jettison, he’d likely be someone Jackett would want to keep around – whether promotion is achieved or not.
ANOTHER STRING TO CURTIS’ BOW
Following Pompey’s 1-1 draw with Accrington, some members of the Fratton faithful were calling for Ronan Curtis to be given a short breather.
The Irishman failed to register a goal or assist for four matches, his longest dry spell donning the star & crescent.
Kenny Jackett always feels Curtis is a goal threat, however, no matter how lively or quiet he is.
It proved the case against Bradford, with the former Derry winger teeing up Evans’ match-winner.
One minor criticism of Curtis is he cut inside onto his favoured right foot at times instead of looking to get round the outside of his marker.
That’s what he did at Valley Parade, though, and it yielded the decisive moment.
The 22-year-old beat Ryan McGowan on the left flank before his cut back from the by-line was finished off by Evans.
Now Curtis has added another attribute to his already-impressive repertoire, which will mean he’ll be able to torment opposing defences even more frequently.
STILL ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT
Pompey returned to the south coast with a seventh League One away victory hand.
But they made it difficult for themselves.
The travelling Fratton faithful were unable to rest easy until quite literally after the last kick of the game.
Following Gareth Evans’ opener, the Blues failed to extend their advantage and put the game beyond reach.
Oli Hawkins missed a great chance from close range on 28 minutes, while Jackett’s forwards broke with plenty of pace in the second period but their counter-attacks came to no avail.
As the game wore on, Bradford started to threaten to level – and should have done in stoppage-time.
Hope Akpan burst through on goal and only had Craig MacGillivray in the Pompey net to beat, but the Bantams midfielder chipped his shot over the bar.
David Ball’s free-kick at the death was another a heart-in-mouth moment but luckily it failed to trouble MacGillivray.
Pompey ground out the victory and that’s a sign of a good side.
But Jackett’s men will know they need to start killing games off earlier to avoid such pressure.