What we learnt from Pompey victory at Gillingham

Striker Oli Hawkins played at centre-back yesterday Picture: Joe Pepler
Striker Oli Hawkins played at centre-back yesterday Picture: Joe Pepler
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JORDAN CROSS looks back on Pompey’s victory at Gillingham and assesses the main taking points...

Front to back

It was a brave decision – and one which emphatically paid off.

Kenny Jackett’s call to play Oli Hawkins as a central defender was made that much bigger by Nathan Thompson’s return to fitness.

The Pompey boss could have easily utilised a specialist defender in Thompson in the middle and played Gareth Evans or Drew Talbot at right-back.

So Jackett would have been open to criticism if there’d been any costly errors from Hawkins in a makeshift role at the back.

But he was rewarded with a man-of-the-match performance from the striker to repel Gillingham.

True, he rode his luck over the first-half tackle on Lee Martin which should have resulted in a penalty for the home side.

Time and again, though, the former Dagenham & Redbridge man put various parts of his anatomy on the line to repel the Gills.

Jackett’s hunch the Blues may need Hawkins’ height to face a direct Gillingham approach was spot on.

The striker will have to be careful not to continue playing so well at the back – or he could end up there for good!

Winning ugly

They say winning when below your best is the sign of a good team.

It’s a stretch to say this Pompey side deserve that status just yet as their topsy-turvy league form continues.

But at least the hunt for back-to-back wins is over as the Checkatrade Trophy success was followed by a league victory on the road.

That leaves the Blues three points off the play-offs with a quarter of the league season already completed.

The most encouraging fact about an eminently forgettable meeting with Gillingham was Pompey won with such a lengthy injury list.

Jackett’s side had eight players absent going into the match at Priestfield.

That included top scorer and player-of-the-month Brett Pitman, as well as a host of defenders.

Pompey ended the game with another three players carrying knocks in Dion Donohue, Matt Kennedy and Ben Close.

The hope is none of those are too serious with the Blues’ squad already creaking.

Main’s game

It’s been a long while coming for Curtis Main.

The striker wasn’t left in the cold under Paul Cook – it was more a case of being cryogenically-frozen from the first-team picture.

There were injury problems for the 25-year-old before falling out of favour.

The match against Gillingham was Main’s first league start since September 2016 against Wycombe, when he was left needing 14 stitches to a head wound.

The former Middlesbrough man was the width of a post away from scoring with a powerful header, before Matty Kennedy snaffled away the loose ball.

Main’s all-round game and work-rate earned praise from manager Kenny Jackett after the match.

It was a decent case for continued inclusion, and gives Jackett food-for-thought, with Hawkins expected to be free to return up front against MK Dons this weekend.