Kenny Jackett: Goal-hungry Gareth Evans staking persuasive Portsmouth starting XI claim
Kenny Jackett admitted Gareth Evans’ goals are proving persuasive in the battle for a Pompey starting spot.
The 31-year-old was handed a number 10 opportunity at Crawley in Saturday’s penultimate friendly.
He responded by netting with a diving header from Marcus Harness’ cross as the Blues ran out 2-1 winners at the League Two club.
Tom Naylor also scored having been restored to his usual midfield role.
Yet it was Evans’ re-emergence as a number 10 which intrigued, having largely been used on the wing during the pre-season schedule.
The long-serving player scored 13 times in 56 appearances last season, while Saturday marked his second goal of the summer.
And with the League One campaign starting at Shrewsbury on Saturday, Jackett conceded Evans is in the first-team frame.
Pompey’s boss said: ‘Gareth is very much an option, he scored 13 goals from number 10 last season and I think it’s his best position.
‘With his work-rate, he can arrive late in the box, he can score goals, if you played him there all season can he get 13 or more? That will be his test.
‘I think he’s capable of it, though. It’s an interesting one.
‘Since playing that system last season, he has improved, fair play to him, he played very well against Crawley and the first goal was real quality.
‘It was a good ball from Naylor, with a good weighted pass, and Marcus put in a very simple but effective cross, with Gareth arriving late and burying the header.
‘You can’t write Gareth off, he is a very good player to have around.
‘I’ve tried different people in different roles in pre-season so far and went with him on Saturday to have a look at the balance – and it was a good performance.
‘He gives you commitment, he gives you work-rate and, from that position, he gives you goals – if he can get 13-plus from the number 10 position, it’s hard to beat that,
‘Goals are a big thing for the number 10, but also delivery when he gets into the right areas, while overall will give you a work ethic and commitment.’
Saturday’s victory also saw Jamal Lowe and Louis Dennis unused from the bench.
In the case of Dennis, he started the summer as a number 10 consideration, but appears to have now trailed off.
Jackett added: ‘Louis Dennis is still in the equation.
‘Unfortunately he hasn’t quite got on yet. I brought all of the senior players (to Crawley) and I understand not getting game time is tough.
‘But as a manager and a club we are building for nine or 10 months.
‘We need some depth and are working towards a long season.’