Davies earns Richardson praise after influential return to Pompey team

Ben Davies. Picture: Joe Pepler
Ben Davies. Picture: Joe Pepler

Ben Davies announced his return by inspiring Pompey to victory over Bristol Rovers.

And Leam Richardson admitted the veteran ‘possibly’ benefited from his Blues sabbatical.

Davies weighed in with assists for Gareth Evans and Michael Smith in Saturday’s 3-1 Fratton Park triumph.

The third goal was netted by substitute Marc McNulty in a classy Pompey display which saw off their promotion rivals.

Davies was back in Paul Cook’s starting line-up having been rested for the previous match, Kieron Freeman instead coming in.

That ended in a disappointing 1-0 defeat, with many fans regarding the 34-year-old’s omission as a controversial one.

Still, one of the star performers of the Blues’ campaign put in another excellent showing.

And Richardson was pleased to see his crucial presence back in the side.

Pompey’s assistant manager said: ‘We are blessed at the minute.

‘We have good players at the club, the manager is keen on keeping everyone happy and keeping everybody playing at 3pm on a Saturday, whether they are out on loan or whether they are here in our squad.

‘Last week was one of those decisions with Kieron Freeman, who is a top-class player, and we are also quite lucky to have Ben in that area.

‘Although there was criticism about Ben not playing last week, he has played well on Saturday, getting a couple of assists, so it looks like it has been a good decision.

‘He played well and got two assists, so possibly missing that game helped him.

‘If the season stopped now Ben would possibly be one of the players of the year because he has almost been ever-present, been consistent and is a very good lad around the dressing room.

‘Marc McNulty not starting was the same with how we viewed Ben and Kieron. We are lucky at the minute we have good players fit, so you are trying to find a balance to the team and what works.

‘We are trying to share the load with the games coming up, with a good full fixture list in March.’

It was only Rovers’ third defeat in the last 12 matches, a run which has established them as promotion candidates.

Yet despite their impressive run – which include a 2-1 win at Oxford United – they had no answer to a dominant Blues.

Cook’s side produced a magnificent response to the disappointments of Orient and could have won by an ever greater margin against Darrell Clarke’s side.

Certainly they were denied by several world-class saves from Steve Mildenhall in Rovers’ goal, stops from Christian Burgess and Gareth Evans particularly standing out.

Richardson added: ‘Bristol Rovers always pose a threat, they are very infectious in what they do, they have good players around the pitch and have a good management team.

‘They have come off the back of some very good results so we expected a really good, tough game on Saturday.

‘The pleasing thing was we got the result we wanted – but don’t take anything away from Bristol Rovers because they are a threat.’