Gareth Evans ready to step up Pompey return

Gareth Evans in action against Coventry City. Picture: Joe Pepler
Gareth Evans in action against Coventry City. Picture: Joe Pepler

Paul Cook admitted Pompey have missed Gareth Evans as he steps up his return.

The Blues boss feels his team have been short of the attacking talent’s penetration amid a stuttering start to the campaign.

Evans has been tasked with building his fitness through his own mini pre-season.

That’s three months on from the tackle from Carl McHugh which left him with knee ligament damage and torn ankle ligaments.

Evans will step up his return against Southend on Monday as Pompey take part in the Premier League Cup.

The 28-year-old was given a 64-minute outing in the EFL Cup defeat at Coventry last week.

Now the aim is to get Evans firing on all cylinders once again to boost Cook’s options.

After bagging 10 goals last term, Cook knows his drive has been missed through Pompey’s winless opening.

Cook said: ‘The game on Monday will be for Gareth Evans, without a doubt.

‘The guy’s been out for three months.

‘When you look at Gareth you can see he needs a couple of games.

‘We miss him at the moment, by the way.

‘He’s someone who penetrates all of the time.

‘The balance of our team is incorrect at the moment. We know that, we’re not stupid.

‘So it’s a good game for Gareth to get under his belt.’

Pompey’s inaugural Premier League Cup match at Westleigh Park (7pm) will also offer the chance for other senior players to gain minutes.

Ben Close hasn’t seen any action so far after being sidelined with a hamstring injury.

New recruit Adam Buxton has also been tasked with building his fitness by Cook after arriving from Accrington.

Noel Hunt has been limited to a trio of cameo appearances off the bench totalling 19 minutes, with Conor Chaplin given two sub outings.

The Premier League Cup is an under-23 competition but Pompey can field three over-age outfield players as well as an over-age keeper.

Cook is looking to utilise the game for senior as well as younger players.

He said: ‘It’s not just for Gareth but also for all of the lads who aren’t playing – the Ben Closes and those on the fringes.

‘We’ve got some good games for those lads.

‘We’ll definitely have a strong team in that if we don’t win against Colchester!

‘It’s just to keep us playing some games.

‘Our lads need to get some fitness.

‘It’s an opportunity to get a couple of good games in.

‘The Coventry game was used that way and I’m sure the EFL Trophy will be used in the same way.

‘Without having a reserve league, believe it or not, we have got plenty of games going on.

‘We’ve got plenty of games to get the lads up to speed.’