Awfs brews up plan for leaders

Andy Awford discusses tactics. Picture: Ashley Zee
Andy Awford discusses tactics. Picture: Ashley Zee
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ANDY AWFORD is mulling over a return to wing-backs at Burton.

The Pompey boss is weighing up whether to continue his tinkering ways as his team take on the Brewers at the Pirelli Stadium on Sunday.

And he is confident the 3-5-2 formation will stand up to the test of facing League Two’s early pacesetters, if he plumps for that system.

Awford opted to employ a 4-3-3 shape for the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy win at Yeovil, which was used in the campaign curtain-raiser at Exeter in the 1-1 draw.

In between it’s been the 4-2-3-1 shape which was so successful as Pompey powered to safety at the end of last season.

But using wing-backs has also been at the forefront of Awford’s thinking since the Capital One Cup win over Peterborough last month.

The system is seen as a forward-thinking set-up but the Blues boss believes the statistics show Pompey have been sound enough defensively when using it.

Awford said: ‘We’ve only conceded one goal in four games playing wing-backs – that goal was a set-piece.

‘So, in general play, we’ve been very tight with that system. It’s been good.

‘Granted, the majority of games – three out of four – have been at home.

‘Now we are in a run of games away, so it’s a different test for us on the road.

‘We switched to it against Cambridge and that looked solid as well.

‘For me, it’s horses for courses. Burton might need something different again, so it’s up to me and the staff to decide which way to go.’

There was little sign of the amount Awford would utilise wing-backs in pre-season.

He explained it was always his intention to give it a go, but he admitted even he didn’t expect it be used as often as it has so far.

Awford said: ‘I didn’t have the extra centre-half in pre-season.

‘I wanted to play it but there is always someone not quite right and it didn’t allow me to do it.

‘We worked on it in training a lot.

‘As soon as the draw came out, and I watched Peterborough a couple of times, I always had it in mind that would be the game we’d use it in.

‘Because it’s gone so well we’ve maybe used it more than we anticipated.

‘Equally we can change it and go back to a four. We’ve got the personnel to do that.’

Awford knows the dangers of using wing-backs, but remembers when he used that formation effectively in his Pompey playing days under Jim Smith.

He said: ‘You can get overloaded. But the outside midfielders, as I call them, have to have legs. It’s no good me playing there! They have to be able to get out to the full-backs, if they do advance.

‘You have to have energy to get up and down the pitch.

‘We played it with Warren Neill and John Beresford, who were different types.

‘We have different types in Nicky Shorey and, say, Jed Wallace.

‘They are on different wings but Bez would fly up and down and Wally would sit in and pass it.

‘Nicky will get forward like he did at Oxford for the goal, but he’ll usually keep it for you. I see a likeness to the system we played back in the day.’