How Ronan Curtis has gone from disappointing Portsmouth deliveries to League One’s set-piece danger man

Kenny Jackett has revealed the key to Pompey becoming one of the most dangerous set-piece forces in English football.

Friday, 14th February 2020, 12:30 pm
Ronan Curtis has become a free-kick specialist. Photo by Daniel Chesterton/PinPep

The Blues manager pinpointed Ronan Curtis going from dead-ball zero to hero as key to his team’s increased threat from dead-ball situations.

Amazingly, five of the last six goals scored by Jackett’s side have come via that route as the work on the training ground resoundingly pays off.

A slight concern was Pompey failing to hit the back of the net when that avenue was snuffed out by Coventry in Tuesday’s 1-0 loss at St Andrew’s.

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Jackett hailed Curtis’ strength of character as being a serious factor in the threat, as he’s stuck to the task of sharpening his delivery from moments when it wasn’t happening for the winger earlier in the season.

He said: I think five of our last six have been from set-pieces.

‘Our service has improved really. People talk about Ronan and his assists from set-pieces.

The worst day was Wycombe away where he was clearing the whole box with his corners.

‘At 0-0 going into our fans and both sides were down to 10 men.

‘We were pushing and weren’t in a bad position. Our corners were clearing the whole area.

‘But now his corners along with Seddon’s have improved a lot. We feel that’s been the key.

‘Keep persevering and keep practising. The thing about Ronan is if he doesn’t get it right one week he will go out there the next one and give it another go.

‘He’s not someone who will dip his head when you ask if someone wants to take them or be considered.

‘Set-piece specialists, people who can deliver, score or defend them is part of your selection as a manager one way or the other.

Across a broader sample, Pompey have bagged 11 of their past 19 goals via a corner or free-kick stretching back to the FA Cup win at Fleetwood in January.

The goals have flooded in largely via Curtis or Steve Seddon’s balls since then with opponents marking down the Blues as a major danger in that area.

Despite the upturn, Jackett is adamant there has been no change in the level of attention paid to free-kicks and corners.

He added: ‘There hasn’t been a change in preparation.

‘It’s been perseverance and preparation. Keep practising.

‘Ronan keep practising, Ben Close be a set-piece specialist. Keep practisting.

‘We haven’t needed Ben to take them from that side because Ronan’s been taking the.

‘But when the next man’s needed Ben has to be ready, or whoever it happens to be.

‘It’s something we try to work at, practise and improve.

‘The delivery of the ball and the runs between the posts.

‘Burgess got the odd header from beyond the back post but really you need to be between the sticks.

‘It sounds simple stuff and it is. It’s a simple game. You need your delivery and your runs between the posts. The percentage-wise you’ll score more goals.

‘However they come you don’t mind. Set-pieces account for a third of all goals.

‘That’s at every level for and against, so you’d be foolish to ignore it.

‘Also when you do get yours you have to capitalise on it.

‘We do put a lot into them and we always have done.’