No Portsmouth place is completely safe as more away points from winning position spurned

Sports writer Will Rooney assesses the talking points from Pompey’s 1-1 draw at Gillingham on New Year’s Day.

Thursday, 2nd January 2020, 11:15 am

No position is completely safe

Kenny Jackett hasn’t been afraid to drop his key players during his time as Pompey boss.

Ronan Curtis was given a spell on the sidelines earlier in the campaign, while Brett Pitman had a period completely in the cold last term.

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But the one you might never have expected to be omitted was Craig MacGillivray.

The keeper's been a consistent figure since his arrival in June 2018, with mistakes and under-par performances few and far between.

Yet Jackett made the bold decision to hand Alex Bass just his fourth Football League outing at Gillingham, with MacGillivray confined to the substitutes’ bench.

The 21-year-old repaid the faith shown in him with an assured afternoon between the posts. He made three decent stops, as well as looking confident every time he was forced to collect a cross.

Alex Bass replaced Craig MacGillivray in goal at Gillingham. Picture: Jason Brown

Bass is held in the highest of regard by the coaching staff at Fratton Park and regarded as a big player for the future.

Now it’s intriguing to see whether he'll retain the No1 spot or whether MacGillivray will claim back his berth.

Certainly there is a battle for the spot and it highlights things between the pair are closer than how we might have imagined.

Moreover, it underlines that no-one's position is completely secure in Jackett’s starting line-up.

Quintessential Evans

The pre-match talking point was dominated by Craig MacGillivray’s omission.

But the other change that was somewhat surprising was Gareth Evans coming in for a first league start for two months when replacing Andy Cannon.

The ex-Rochdale man had caught the eye in his past three outings but was judged to have needed a rest given the lack of minutes he’s also had this term.

Such a lengthy period without featuring from the outset would suggest Evans would be rusty in the formative stages of the clash.

That wasn't the case, however.

Instead, Evans was Pompey's chief tormentor, with his energy and tenacity causing the Gills all sorts of problems in the first period.

His opening goal was quintessential, as he darted into the box and lost his marker before finishing with aplomb.

Evans may not have the low centre of gravity as Cannon, but he is a bigger threat in the final third.

While Cannon still awaits his maiden Pompey goal, Evans registered his fifth of the campaign at Priestfield.

Even before he’d broken the deadlock, the 31-year-old had already gone close when latching onto a bouncing ball but was denied.

It’s those qualities that gives Evans strong claims for a sustained run in the starting line-up.

More away points spurned

Pompey’s away form continues to be their Achilles heel.

While a draw at a Gillingham side who’d won their past seven home games was a decent point in isolation, the Blues felt they should have won.

And it meant more points from winning positions on the road were spurned.

It was the fifth time this season Kenny Jackett's men edged in front on their travels.

But just like Sunderland, Blackpool, Bristol Rovers and Accrington, Pompey failed to hold out for a success.

In total, 12 points have been dropped from when the Blues have been ahead.

Had Pompey retained their leads, they would be sitting two points clear at the summit of the table.