The right players who have finally blessed Portsmouth

Nathan Thompson has been one of three outstanding right-backs for Pompey in recent seasons. Picture: Joe Pepler
Nathan Thompson has been one of three outstanding right-backs for Pompey in recent seasons. Picture: Joe Pepler
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Yassin Moutaouakil’s penalty was audacious – and so was his ambition.

Striding forward when challenged with the fifth penalty in the Plainmoor shoot-out, he calmly chipped the ball down the middle.

Yassin Moutaouakil. Picture: Joe Pepler

Yassin Moutaouakil. Picture: Joe Pepler

Victory was secured, Pompey had progressed into the second round of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy at the expense of hosts Torquay.

Yet more memorable was the Frenchman’s post-match proclamation on that September 2013 evening.

‘I just want to be the best right-back in the league and take the club back where it belongs,’ he confidently addressed the assembled local media.

‘The way I took the penalty against Torquay is the way I want to show everyone that I can be the best right-back in League Two.

‘I definitely believe I can do that.’

Moutaouakil made another 10 appearances for Pompey in the aftermath of that bold statement and was released at the season’s end.

Instead loanee Daniel Alfei, Joe Devera and Danny East were largely preferred in the right-back berth during a 2013-14 campaign which, at one point, threatened to bring non-league football to Fratton Park.

These days Nathan Thompson is the incumbent – with Gareth Evans and Ben Davies the regulars before him.

Certainly the Blues have been well blessed with talent at right full-back in recent seasons, emphasising the chasm between less-illustrious predecessors.

Thompson collected his seventh booking of the season in the midweek defeat to Charlton, a figure matched only by Tom Naylor, cautioned in the same fixture.

Last term, the former Swindon man’s return of nine bookings and two red cards was unparalleled, demonstrating the combative style which has endeared himself to the Fratton faithful.

Coincidentally, today pits the 28-year-old against Alex Mowatt at Barnsley. Their previous encounter saw Mowatt, then in Oxford United colours, dismissed for slapping Thompson around the face.

Far from being an innocent, the right-back actually instigated the aggressive reaction by goading his opponent after missing a penalty in front of the Milton end.

That’s Thompson – one of Jackett’s finest recruits as Pompey boss.

Then there's that idiosyncratic flop, the well-honed crumple to the turf while shielding the ball from an opponent harrying behind. Rarely does it fail to capture a referee’s backing.

Evans earlier this season described his team-mate as the club’s ‘best one-v-one defender’.

Those regularly witnessing Thompson’s 59 outings to date would not disagree with such an evaluation of a tough-tackling performer whose contract expires in the summer.

It’s a far cry from the right-backs on display during the 2014-15 campaign, when Alex Wynter (15) and Josh Passley (12) topped the appearance charts.

Incidentally, ex-Crystal Palace defender Wynter has this season turned out 23 times for an Eastleigh side presently situated ninth in the National League.

Passley, a loanee from Fulham during his Fratton Park days, occupies the same division with Dover, also racking up 23 outings.

The following season saw Davies arrive – and currently nobody has featured more times in the role since Glen Johnson departed the south coast in June 2009 for Liverpool.

Following his arrival from Sheffield United in July 2015, initially on trial, the veteran added an attacking thrust from right-back rarely seen since the aforementioned England international was in full flight.

During Paul Cook's first season which ended in play-off defeat at Plymouth, only Kyle Bennett and Enda Stevens weighed in with more assists than Davies in his 51 outings.

He ended the campaign collecting player of the season awards from six different supporters’ groups. However, was edged out for The News/Sports Mail’s accolade by Michael Doyle.

Incidentally, Davies had voted for his close friend in the players’ player of the season vote, recognising his immense contribution. The vote was returned by Pompey’s skipper.

Regardless, the former Derby man earned a song, a T-shirt and an immense affection among Blues supporters for those high-octane displays down the right flank.

He left in the summer of 2016 having failed to agree on a new deal financially with Pompey, yet had long sensed the club had begun to look elsewhere.

Kieron Freeman’s loan arrival from Sheffield United during the second half of the season raised Davies’ suspicions, yet failed sufficiently to impress.

Subsequently, Cook lined-up Drew Talbot as a replacement on a free transfer from Chesterfield, while Adam Buxton would also later arrive.

Now aged 37, Davies coaches Grimsby under-16s and this season has made 17 appearances for Boston United in the National League.

In terms of right-back outings, Evans (49) and Thompson (47) are only behind Davies during Pompey’s last 10 seasons.

Greg Halford certainly served with distinction, with 28 appearances in that role, although possessed a versatility which saw him switched around the team during two Fratton seasons.

In the 2010-11 campaign, Ritchie De Laet, a loanee from Manchester United, turned out 21 times, more than Halford, Joel Ward and Hayden Mullins.

Ward would later establish himself as Crystal Palace’s right-back, totalling 210 appearances for the club to date, yet just 21 of his 96 Pompey games came in the role.

Back to Evans, he was a late arrival to the position during the 2016-17 campaign which would see Pompey claim the League Two title.

The previous summer was spent recovering from medial collateral damage in his left knee and torn medial ligaments in his left ankle, sustained during the play-off second-leg defeat at Plymouth.

By the time he was handed the right-back berth against Crawley in the eighth game of the season, Talbot, Buxton and Adam May had all been trialled by Cook.

Evans, an attacking midfielder by trade, remained in his new job for the rest of the campaign, totalling 41 outings there and scoring penalties in the promotion clincher at Notts County and the title clincher against Cheltenham.

Buxton had his contract cancelled by mutual consent midway through the season and is presently with Tranmere, with 13 appearances this term.

As for Talbot, Davies’ replacement departed by mutual consent in December 2017 following 14 games, of which 11 were served at right-back. He has played eight times for National League Chesterfield this campaign.

Still, since the summer of 2015, Pompey have been fortunate to possess three excellent right-backs who have established themselves as popular figures.

And Moutaouakil?

He currently works as a personal trainer at PureGym in Enfield.