Portsmouth striker’s potential Wembley starting spot against Sunderland looks to hinge on Ronan Curtis’ availability

It was a substitute outing that gave Kenny Jackett food for thought ahead of the Checkatrade Trophy final on Sunday.

Tuesday, 26th March 2019, 1:59 pm

The Dagenham & Redbridge recruit replaced Omar Bogle in the 55th minute when Pompey held a 1-0 lead.

Following a frustrating afternoon for the Cardiff loanee, Jackett felt he needed more presence up front.

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That’s exactly what Hawkins offered as he imposed himself physically, while he crossed for Brett Pitman’s 79th-minute goal to double the visitors’ lead.

Hawkins’ performance earned praise from Jackett, giving the manager a decision to ponder in the build up to Wembley.

After being behind Bogle in the past three games, Hawkins will be hoping it’s him who features from the outset at the national stadium.

But the 26-year-old’s chances of starting against Sunderland seemingly hinge on one factor – Ronan Curtis’ availability.

The reason comes down to who could operate in the No10 position of Jackett’s preferred 4-2-3-1 system.

Pompey will know on Wednesday if Curtis has any chance of featuring.

After severing his finger, the winger has his stitches removed on Tuesday and is set to train the following day.

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If he is fully fit, Curtis will almost certainly take up his usual berth on the left flank.

That would see Jamal Lowe switch to the right, giving Jackett the option to play Gareth Evans in the hole, instead of Pitman, and Hawkins up front.

The quartet proved a deadly combination in the opening half of the campaign and it’s a four-pronged attacked the Pompey boss has plenty of confidence in.

If Curtis’ finger proves too painful, however, Hawkins’ chances of starting look slim.

Jackett is already short of wide options. Viv Solomon-Otabor is set to be sidelined with a calf injury, while Lloyd Isgrove is ineligible, having represented Barnsley in the competition earlier this term.

Even Dion Donohue, who could have acted as a makeshift winger, is on the treatment table with a groin complaint.

With that in mind, Evans looks likely begin on the right, Lowe on the left and Pitman operating behind front-man Bogle, as it was against the Shrews.

Jackett has stated on numerous occasions he doesn’t feel his skipper and Hawkins can play together – despite the pair combining at New Meadow.

By the manager’s own admission, there’s been a shortage of pace and mobility when they’ve started together in the past.

So Hawkins will be optimistic of a place in Pompey’s line-up at Wembley after catching the eye at Shrewsbury.

Yet that could be determined by whether Curtis makes a recovery in time.

Mind you, Jackett could still opt to play Pitman behind Bogle.