System is Taylor-made for Awfs’ number nine

Ryan Taylor. Picture: Joe Pepler
Ryan Taylor. Picture: Joe Pepler

ANDY AWFORD pinpointed Ryan Taylor as the crucial component to the formation which has got Pompey winning.

But he refused to rule out a tactical turnaround for the trip to Dagenham & Redbridge on Saturday.

The Blues recorded back-to-back league wins for the first time since March last year against Hartlepool at the weekend.

That marked the second game of Awford’s caretaker tenure as manager.

Awford has opted to employ a 4-2-3-1 formation in both of those outings.

That has utilised Taylor at its apex, with an attacking trio of Ricky Holmes, Wes Fogden and Jed Wallace behind him.

Their deep-lying runs have caused problems for opposing defences, with two anchoring midfielders giving them the freedom to bomb forward.

Awford acknowledged the importance of his attacking midfielders in the system.

But he feels it’s Taylor’s traditional number nine play which is a key factor in its early success.

‘The three lads have all got pace and they’ve all got energy – Holmes, Wallace and Fogden. I think that helps it work,’ said Awford.

‘But Ryan Taylor’s hold-up play is proper number-nine stuff. He’s crucial to it.

‘He’s either helping stuff on to the runners or holding the ball up and bringing them into play.

‘I thought he was magnificent against Hartlepool.

‘He set the goal up by getting up at the back stick.

‘It hits Webbo (Adam Webster) and in it goes.

‘The system works at the moment.

‘We will have a look at other teams, and see how it goes from here – but it’s about us.

‘That’s working at the moment, but I might go three at the back next weekend!’

Fogden, in particular, has been a revelation in the first two games of Awford’s time as boss.

An excellent performance at Newport County was followed up by a man-of-the-match display against Hartlepool on Saturday.

Fogden has been used in the centre of the attacking three, which has got the best out of his boundless energy and clever use of the ball.

Awford heaped praise on the 25-year-old and stated it was his defensive work, as well as his attacking intent, which made him stand out.

He said: ‘Wes got a standing ovation when he came off on Saturday.

‘That was because of the effort, work-rate and application.

‘He got on the ball and played.

‘We asked him to do some defensive work as well.

‘That was key to stopping Hartlepool playing.

‘Then he runs forward as well. He’s been great for me.’

Taylor is set to continue up front at Dagenham, but Patrick Agyemang is another option for playing as an attacking figurehead in the current system,

He missed the weekend visit of Pools with an ankle injury, but Awford is hopeful he’ll be back for the trip to the capital.

Awford said: ‘Pat has done his ankle, but we don’t think it will be too long.

‘He went over on it on Tuesday, but we are keeping him ready for the run-in.

‘We’ll assess him this week and see how it goes.’