Portsmouth number-10 spot still looks wide open as Brett Pitman makes another claim
Sports writer Will Rooney picks out the talking points from Pompey’s final pre-season friendly victory at Woking...
ANOTHER NUMBER-10 CLAIM FROM PITMAN
It’s Gareth Evans’ goalscoring prowess which is proving persuasive in the battle for Pompey’s number-10 position.
The fans' favourite netted from the position in Saturday's 2-1 win at Crawley.
Yet if it’s someone clinical to play in the hole behind the striker, then Brett Pitman will no doubt feel he should be the man handed that remit.
The skipper again underlined his quality in front of goal at Woking with a double.
Granted, Pompey lined up 4-4-2 against the National League side but it’s unlikely Kenny Jackett will go away from his favoured 4-2-3-1 system any time soon.
Pitman’s opener may have been from the penalty spot, but in the build-up he pulled off into a decent position, cracking a shot that went narrowly wide before being hacked down.
And for his second, the former AFC Bournemouth man whipped home a pinpoint free-kick from around 25 yards.
Pitman’s contributions didn't stop there, though, with his arrowed cross late in the second half leaving Oli Hawkins with a tap-in at the back stick.
In terms of prowess in the final third, there aren’t too many better than the 31-year-old in League One.
Evans’ energy may be a deciding factor in the battle to line-up against Shrewsbury on Saturday.
However, Pitman’s admission that he upped his training regime after a spell in the cold last season shows he’s also willing to put the work in off the ball.
BACK WITH A BANG
It’s been a frustrating pre-season programme for James Bolton and Oli Hawkins.
Before the trip to Woking, the pair had amassed just 45 minutes of football between them.
Neither had the luck of the Irish during Pompey’s pre-season trip to Dublin, with Hawkins picking up a back problem in training while Bolton sustained a groin setback in the friendly with UCD.
The pair are now playing catch-up with the rest of their team-mates.
But their performances at the Kingfield Stadium suggests they’re not lagging too far behind.
Bolton offered plenty of energy and exuberance down the right flank, as well as scarcely putting a foot wrong defensively.
It was the summer arrival from Shrewsbury’s cross which Hawkins’ smart sliding finish extended Pompey’s lead to 3-0.
Despite being his first game of the summer, the striker was sharp spearheading the attack.
He latched on to Haji Mnoga’s long ball and was taken out by Cards keeper Sam Howes – which in a competitive game would have been a red card – allowing Pitman to fire home the free-kick.
And there was time for Hawkins to again etch himself on to the scoresheet late on. He slid in Pitman and carried on his to the far post, allowing for an easy finish.
It’s unlikely either will start at Shrewsbury on Saturday but the duo don’t look all that far away from vying for a regular starting berth.
SET-PIECE IMPROVEMENT REQUIRED
While Pompey were potent in the final third of the pitch, they’d certainly have been disappointed with their display in their own box.
Both of Woking’s goals were yielded through set-pieces – an area which Kenny Jackett puts so much emphasis on.
On the stroke of half-time, Josh Casey’s free-kick caused the Blues all sorts of problems, with the danger unable to be cleared.
Alex Bass might have thought he’d rescued the visitors by making a fine close-range stop, only for Manny Parry to bundle the rebound home.
And while that proved frustrating, Pompey didn’t heed the mistake they’d made 45 minutes earlier.
In the closing stages, a corner from the left was headed home by the unmarked Moussa Diarra at the near post.
In truth, it's the sort of defending that’d leave Jackett ruing in a competitive game, even if the scoreline was the same.
There were mitigating circumstances, though.
Youngsters Matt Casey and Haji Mnoga made up Pompey’s centre-half pairing when there’s been a senior professional next to them in other games.
Then add there was no real height in the middle of the park.
Ben Close and Andy Cannon made up the engine room when there would be Tom Naylor and/ or Ross McCrorie in league fixtures.