Pompey boss backs unusual striker role

Craig Westcarr. Picture: Joe Pepler
Craig Westcarr. Picture: Joe Pepler

Andy Awford has defended his novel decision to install Craig Westcarr as Pompey’s corner taker.

The centre forward’s elevation to flag-kick duties has come as a surprise to many of the Fratton faithful.

Jed Wallace and Ricky Holmes have both had stints this season, while Dan Butler is another contender but currently sits on the bench.

Instead Westcarr has largely taken corner responsibilities since the defeat at Southend in September.

The 29-year-old’s new-found role has prompted some supporters to question the wisdom of a striker’s absence from the penalty area during such occasions.

For Awford, though, utilising Westcarr’s dead-ball ability is the most crucial point to consider.

He said: ‘I’m looking for accuracy from corners.

‘We had a conversation about it at the start of the season and somebody mentioned about Craig taking corners because he delivers a good ball, which he does.

‘The penalty we won against Shrewsbury was a prime example, you put it in the right area and get something.

‘I had this vision that you need your goal scorers in the box but then it was pointed out to me Kenny Dalglish, Thierry Henry and Wayne Rooney took corners for their clubs.

‘If you don’t get the delivery right it doesn’t matter who is in the box, you aren’t going to score.

‘So the delivery at corners becomes more important than actually who is knocking them into the back of the net. Your delivery is everything.

‘We have changed corner takers and dead-ball takers as the season has progressed to try to get a bit more quality in.

‘Now that is nothing against the lads who were taking them earlier in the season but if you have got people who can do it better, you do it.

‘With Craig the delivery has been good of late – that is one area we have improved on, definitely.’

At Shrewsbury, defender Mickey Demetriou handled Westcarr’s right-wing corner with his raised arm in the second minute.

It allowed Jed Wallace to give the Blues the lead from the penalty spot, only for the visitors to suffer a 2-1 defeat at Greenhous Meadow.

The ex-Walsall striker also caused problems with his deliveries against Carlisle on Saturday.

But Awford acknowledges another corner consideration is Butler.

He added: ‘When Dan has played, he is very good at corners, so he is another one we have put in.

‘Although you have got this problem when he runs from left-back to right-wing to take the corner and put it in, which is a long run and you can sometimes lose your shape.

‘But the lads have to have a plan to adjust to that to allow him to recover if the opposition keeper catches it.’