Sports writer Will Rooney looks at the talking points heading into Pompey’s League One clash at Charlton...
Before he was forced off against Bradford, Oli Hawkins was unplayable.
Spearheading Pompey’s attack, the Bantams struggled to handle the hitman as he gave his side a focal point to play off.
The fact he was dragged down from a corner which won the hosts a penalty for Gareth Evans’ opener underlined his threat.
During the first half of the season, Hawkins was crucial to the Blues’ success as they topped the table.
It was his selfless work that freed up so much space for the likes of Evans, Ronan Curtis and Jamal Lowe to take the majority of the plaudits.
Hawkins limped off midway through the second half after suffering a cut to his ankle against Bradford, although he looks set to be involved at Charlton.
But Kenny Jackett has to decide whether to immediately restore Omar Bogle to his starting line-up instead.
Since arriving from Cardiff on loan in January, the striker has been Pompey’s first-choice striker for the most part, with Hawkins dropping down the pecking order.
After missing the past two games with a hamstring injury, Bogle could be back available for the trip to the Valley.
Given his performance last week, it would be harsh to demote Hawkins to the substitutes’ bench.
But, as we’ve seen on numerous occasions, Jackett will make the decision he feels is best for his side no matter what.
The boss’ favoured 4-2-3-1 formation means there’s often only room for one marksman in his system.
But Jackett did employ Bogle and Hawkins as a partnership in the 3-3 draw at Southend, which showed plenty of promise before the latter was withdrawn.
It’s not beyond the realms of possibility James Vaughan could be given his full Pompey debut, with both Hawkins and Bogle coming back from minor setbacks.
The Wigan loanee has had to remain patient since completing a deadline-day switch to Fratton Park but was a handful when he came off the bench against the Bantams.
ENDING WAIT FOR LEAGUE ONE AWAY WIN
If you’d have said Pompey wouldn’t win a league game on the road for 10 weeks when they were charging towards the Championship, it would have been scoffed at.
But that’s the scenario the Blues find themselves in come kick-off at Charlton.
Despite being so impressive away from home before the turn of the year, their form on their travels has slipped since the turn of the year.
You have to go back to the 5-2 victory at Fleetwood on December 29 to see when Pompey last picked up three points away from Fratton Park in the league.
Of course, there’s been the FA Cup win at Premier League-chasing Norwich, while victories at Southend and Bury secured the Blues an appearance at Wembley in the Checkatrade Trophy final.
But the league is the priority and Jackett’s men haven’t picked up an away success in their past four games in the division.
They’ve suffered losses at Oxford and Luton, while collecting points against Plymouth and Southend – the less said about the latter the better.
Although Pompey will be buoyed by their routing of Bradford last week, their search for a league win on the road doesn’t come at a much harder place.
Charlton have only lost twice in the league at The Valley this season, conceding 12 goals in total.
But if the Blues do deliver a success, it will augur well for the remainder of the campaign.
KEEPING UP THE PRESSURE
It‘s going to be tall order for Pompey to finish in the automatic promotion places this term.
Luton look highly likely to be crowned League One champions, while second-placed Barnsley are unbeaten in their past 15 matches.
Sunderland also have a game in hand on the Blues, while already three points in front.
It’s going to take the trio above to slip up if Pompey are to close the deficit.
Would you fancy Jackett’s side to finish in the top two with 11 games remaining? Even the most optimistic of people couldn’t back the Blues.
But a victory against fifth-placed Charlton would certainly let their rivals know they’re still well in the hunt.