Portsmouth's square peg in a round hole - but right-back talents mean admirers Hull, Swindon, Mansfield and Leyton Orient lining up for ex-Sheffield United hero

Ronan Curtis’ backheel was picked up by Kieron Freeman, who cushioned the ball with his left foot before helping it across goal with the other.

Monday, 13th June 2022, 4:55 am

There was Michael Jacobs to calmly apply a first-time left-footed finish from eight-yards to draw Pompey level at Oxford United after 10 minutes.

Freeman did not finish the match, a freak incident involving a ball to the face would knock him unconscious, only to suffer a fractured ankle as he tumbled to the turf.

Considering the amount of summer interest in the 30-year-old, that February fixture may prove to be his final Pompey appearance.

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Significantly, it also represented a rare outing in his favoured position of right wing-back.

The matter of an assist in the process undoubtedly backs the theory that, in his familiar role, Freeman could make a positive impact with the Blues.

As it was, 14 of his 22 starts under Danny Cowley arrived while employed as a right-sided centre-half in a back three, thereby hampering his effectiveness.

The former Sheffield United man was an emergency measure, plugging a back three robbed of Clark Robertson, Connor Ogilvie and Paul Downing for periods of last season.

Kieron Freeman in action against Oxford United in February 2022, a match in which he claimed an assist and broke his ankle. It could prove to be his final Pompey outing. Picture: Jason Brown/ProSportsImages

Indeed, while Sean Raggett was the towering totem, on occasions he was flanked by an attacking right-back in Freeman and also central midfielder in Shaun Williams.

Needs must, of course, both answering Cowley’s defensive SOS, even at their own detriment.

Unfortunately for Freeman, his time at Pompey has so far been judged largely on such displays as a square peg in a round hole which strangled natural attacking talents.

Much was anticipated upon his July 2021 arrival on a two-year deal, following frustrating times at Swindon and Swansea.

There had been competition for his signature from Rotherham, understandable considering the reputation he had carved out for himself as a rampaging right-back in Bramall Lane days.

Freeman registered 11 goals from the position during the Blades’ promotion from League One in 2016-17, while later represented them in the Premier League.

Without doubt a player of impressive calibre – yet lined-up for the Blues just eight times at either right-back or right wing-back.

Instead Cowley turned to Mahlon Romeo after the Millwall man’s loan arrival on deadline day in August.

Following a start against MK Dons in September, which saw an unhappy Freeman replaced by Romeo in the 56th minute, he featured just twice more at right-back.

Of course, he still committed himself to the Blues cause in a back three, where his willingness to bring the ball out of defence by driving forward was a useful attribute.

Then, in February, following a period of three matches as an unused substitute, he was restored to right wing-back in the absence of Romeo.

It was the first time in almost five months that Freeman would be entrusted in his preferred role, marking his return with that assist for Jacobs.

Sadly, it may also prove to be his final contribution in Pompey’s shirt.

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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