Gareth Evans’ goal at Barnsley… Craig MacGillivray’s save at Rochdale – The News’ Portsmouth end-of-season awards
Pompey held their end-of-season awards dinner at Fratton Park last month.
And with the dust now settled after the Blues missed out on League One promotion, we’ve come up with our own list of accolades for Kenny Jacket’s troops for the 2018-19 campaign...
Player of the season
Matt Clarke scooped all but one of the supporters’ clubs’ accolades – including The News/ Sports Mail Player of the Season.
And few could argue with the outcome.
Pompey's prized asset had another magnificent season as they finished in the play-offs.
He made 60 appearances in total and featured in every game of the league campaign.
Only a clash of heads with Nathan Thompson in the 5-1 romp over Bradford denied Clarke of being involved in every minute in the third tier.
Robust in the challenge, strong in the air and as exciting as any of his team-mates with the ball at his feet, he was a joy to watch.
However, with Pompey missing out on promotion, the chances of retaining the 22-year-old this summer is highly unlikely.
Signing of the season
Jackett’s summer recruitment last summer proved shrewd indeed.
Ronan Curtis arrived for £100,000 from Derry City, while Tom Naylor and Lee Brown joined on free transfers from Burton and Bristol Rovers respectively.
The trio were regular starters, along with Craig MacGillivray.
Despite having fewer than 30 Football League appearances when moving to Fratton Park from Shrewsbury Town, the keeper immediately dislodged Luke McGee to become the Blues’ No1.
And the affable 26-year-old swiftly endeared himself to the Fratton faithful.
Astute when coming for crosses, accurate with his kicking and a superb shot-stopper – there aren’t many more qualities in a keeper you can ask for. Most improved player of the season
It’s often the award most people don’t want to win.
There’s connotations that a poor player has got better slowly and steadily to become a safe pair of hands.
That can't be said for Ben Close, although he does take this award.
The Southsea midfielder was always regarded as calm, composed passer of the ball who offered balance in the engine room.
But after spending the first half of the campaign behind Ben Thompson in the pecking order, Close took up the mantle impeccably when he left.
The academy graduate offered a potent threat in the final third, an area he did perhaps need to address despite making 45 appearances during 2017-18.
Close netted eight goals from January onwards, with his final strike of the season in the 1-1 draw against Accrington underlining the rapid headway he’s made.
Goal of the season
There’s plenty of candidates that could clinch the prize.
Jamal Lowe's ice-cool effort in the Checkatrade Trophy final at Wembley, his strike against Oxford at Fratton Park, Ronan Curtis' acute finish in the 3-0 win over Plymouth and Ben Thompson’s classy goal at Fleetwood are all contender.
But Gareth Evans’ strike in the 1-1 draw at Barnsley gets the nod.
The technique the fans’ favourite displayed on a treacherous day at Oakwell was top class.
Evans took advantage of Alex Mowatt’s poor clearance in the 43rd minute, brought the ball down first time, before drilling a left-footed shot from the edge of the box into the bottom corner.
Save of the season
Given MacGillivray was in goal for 56 of Pompey’s 62 games, it’s a gimmie he'll take this one!
His finest performance came in the 1-1 draw at Sunderland, with the Scot proving Pompey’s hero with four excellent saves.
But the best stop he made was in the 1-0 FA Cup second-round victory at Rochdale.
Shortly after Andre Green had given the Blues a late lead, the Dale immediately reacted in search of an equaliser.
Ian Henderson thought he’d taken the tie to a Fratton Park replay when his shot on the swivel headed towards the far corner, only for MacGillivray to claw the effort away.
Loan signing of the season
There's no shock who takes this one.
Everyone could see how special Ben Thompson was from his very first outing.
Arriving on loan from Millwall in August, the midfielder delivered a dazzling man-of-the-match performance on his debut in the 4-1 win over Oxford United.
Thompson would be an indispensable member of Kenny Jackett’s side during the first half of the campaign.
He scored three goals in 27 appearances before being recalled by the Lions in January.
The Fratton faithful were devastated to lose him and some will argue Pompey never fully recovered in his absence.
Rookie of the season
When Raheem Sterling was crowned PFA Young Player of the Season, there was controversy around whether he was too old to win the prize aged 23.
With that in mind, we’ve decided to go for a rookie who is just breaking through – ruling out Curtis and Close.
So Matt Casey takes the honour.
The centre-back impressed during his three appearances in the Checkatrade Trophy, rarely putting a foot wrong against Arsenal under-21s, Southend and Peterborough.
Casey has also caught the eye of Jackett in training and he’s been offered a new deal to remain at Fratton Park.
Having spent a large chunk on loan at Gosport Borough in the Southern League premier division south, surely the plan will be to get him to a side at National League South level at the very least.
Academy player of the season
Mark Kelly’s side enjoyed a decent season and finished seventh in Merit League One.
That was without Bradley Lethbridge, who spent the majority of the campaign on loan at Bognor.
The Gosport forward was a regular for the Rocks and in his first experience of men’s football, netting 12 goals in 39 appearances – including the winning goal to clinch Jack Pearce’s men the Sussex Senior Cup.
Lethbridge is primed to sign third-year scholarship terms along with Joe Hancott and Leon Maloney.