The lesson Portsmouth boss Kenny Jackett appears to be heeding from last season

So Ronan Curtis has got his swagger back.

Thursday, 7th November 2019, 5:30 am
Marcus Harness marked his first appearance in three games with a goal against Southend. Picture: Robin Jones

In his past three outings, the Republic of Ireland international is looking more and more like the player we know.

In the 4-1 win over Southend on Tuesday, the more Curtis' confidence grew as the game went on. 

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There was one wonderful scooped pass that picked out John Marquis in the second half which underlined his gusto is again nearing its zenith.

In the early stages of the campaign, Curtis failed to match the heights of 12 goals in 51 appearances he reached last term.

That was his final start for four games before he was brought back into the Blues' line-up at Bristol Rovers. 

Refocused, revitalised and reinvented to an extent, the former Derry ace delivered a man-of-the-match performance in the 2-2 draw and deservedly was on the scoresheet. 

In his two subsequent outings against Oxford and Southend, Curtis has maintained those high standards. 

Clearly, the fervent Irishman has benefited from his spell on the sidelines, which Jackett was hoping for.

‘I think it never does anyone any harm to have a little game of two out of the team, watch the side and then go again with some refreshed energy,’ said the boss.

And judging by Marcus Harness’ 17-minute cameo against the Shrimpers, it appears he's reaped the dividends of also being given a bit of respite.

The summer arrival from Burton was Pompey’s best player in the formative stages of the season. It could even be argued Jamal Lowe wasn’t missed as Harness was impressing so much.

A thigh injury at Blackpool curtailed his impetus, though, and when the Coventry-born ace returned to full fitness, Jackett conceded he didn't look quite the same. 

‘Marcus had four or five games where he came back but never hit the heights that he did before his injury,’ he said.

While both Harness and Curtis were on the periphery of things at different times, Ryan Williams took his opportunity and caught the eye.

But Harness marked his first outing in three games against Southend with a goal, while he had another shot shortly afterwards that went narrowly wide. 

He’ll now be targeting a return to the exploits he was producing in August. Assessing what Curtis has done recently, you wouldn’t bet against it. 

Now Jackett might be pondering it’s time for Williams to have his period out of the team and top up his energy levels, having started the past five games.

Overall, it appears the manager has heeded the lack of rotating his wide players last season – which would go on to prove costly in the promotion push.

Jackett was reluctant to rest Curtis or Lowe while the Blues set the pace at the summit of the table before the turn of the year.

Despite having two adept loanee replacements in Aston Villa’s Andre Green and QPR's David Wheeler waiting in the wings, they’d only feature in the third tier if Curtis or Lowe were unavailable. 

Ultimately, both players’ lack of game-time resulted in them recalled by their parent clubs in January.

Viv Solomon-Otabor (Birmingham) and Lloyd Isgrove (Barnsley) were the replacements. 

Curtis and Lowe drastically wilted as the season reached a crescendo. Neither started the play-off semi-final second leg against Sunderland, with the former an unused substitute as the Blues’ campaign came to a disappointing end. 

Yet Solomon-Otabor nor Isgrove – who didn’t make one appearance – stepped up.

In Jackett’s 4-2-3-1 system, wingers are the fulcrum to it working effectively.

The boss has seemingly recognised keeping all of their verve for the entire season will be key if Pompey are to go on a promotion charge.