The Portsmouth loan disappointment who's started to fire on all cylinders for MK Dons

He was a loan signing that falls into the same bracket of plenty in recent years.

Saturday, 28th December 2019, 4:45 pm

Just like players such as Sylvain Deslandes, Lloyd Isgrove, James Vaughan and David Wheeler, Joe Mason also had to settle for a bit-part role at Fratton Park.

Throughout the 2018 summer transfer window, Kenny Jackett had been in hot pursuit of Cheltenham’s prolific marksman Mo Eisa, with the Blues lodging a £1m bid.

The pull of moving to the Championship proved too tempting, though, and he opted for Bristol City.

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With just Brett Pitman and Oli Hawkins as recognised striking options, Jackett turned to the loan market and brought in Joe Mason from Wolves in the 11th hour of deadline day.

On paper, the switch looked a sound bit of business. Granted, he’d had a nomadic couple of years being surplus to requirements at Molineux, struggling to find impetus at Burton and having a temporary spell at MLS side Colorado Rapids cut short.

Yet Mason was still someone who’d scored goals in the Championship – as well as a League Cup final against Liverpool – and was entering his prime at 27.

And the fact Jackett had paid around £3m for the Plymouth-born ace when in charge of Wolves from Cardiff underlined how highly he was regarded by the Pompey boss.

Joe Mason made just four appearances on loan at Pompey. Picture: Joe Pepler

However, Mason failed to make any sort of impact at Fratton Park. He was restricted to just four appearances, with one substitute outing in League One.

As Pompey set the pace at the summit of the division before the turn of the year, Mason found it impossible to dislodge either Hawkins or Gareth Evans from the number nine and number-10 positions.

Even towards the end of his spell, Louis Dennis – who was a peripheral figure himself last term – was ahead in the pecking order.

Joe Mason blazed a penalty over during at Checkatrade Trophy game at Crawley. Picture: Joe Pepler

When Mason’s loan deal expired on January 2, it was scarcely a shock that he returned to Wolves despite Jackett wanting to retain him.

His contract with the Premier League side was subsequently terminated by mutual agreement, leaving him to find a new home on a free transfer.

Despite Charlton and Plymouth showing interest, the former Republic of Ireland under-21 international had to wait until June to finally move to newly-promoted MK Dons.

And while he didn’t kick a ball for the first three months after picking up an injury on the eve of the campaign, Mason has been firing on all cylinders ahead of his former club’s visit to Stadium MK tomorrow.

Since Russell Martin succeeded Paul Tisdale in the Stadium MK hot seat, the former Bolton man has propelled himself into a key player.

In his past six outings, Mason has netted four goals – including in the Dons’ 2-2 draw at Southend on Boxing Day.

With MK Dons languishing in the relegation zone, someone with his experience and nous will be imperative if they're to survive.

Certainly, Martin believes Mason is hungry to keep the Dons in the third tier.

‘He's really up for it, energised by what we've been doing in the last few weeks and he can see where he will fit into the way we want to play,’ the manager recently told the Milton Keynes Citizen.

‘If he maintains those performances, he will be a really good player for us.’

And if Mason has been up for it in recent weeks, you'd think he’ll even more motivation to derail Pompey's excellent recent form and display why he should have been given more opportunities on the south coast.