Pompey made it four league wins in a row yesterday when they came out on top in an exciting match against Wycombe Wanderers at Fratton Park. Although the Chairboys went in front early on, the Blues managed to get back level and ensure that they went into half-time with a 3-2 lead. A Carl Baker goal early in the second half sealed the win, so Paul Cook’s side will be very happy with another victory.
Strength in depth
Not for the first time this season, Pompey used their large squad to change the game. Conor Chaplin’s introduction proved an important moment in the match, and Kal Naismith also came off the bench at the break to add more defensive solidity to the team. There have been concerns raised about how large the first team squad is, but when it is used so well by the manager it allows Pompey to keep changing players until they find a winning formula, as they appear to have now.
Although Pompey fans have long known about Conor Chaplin’s goalscoring potency, something we are just finding out is how much of an impact his personality can have on games. On one occasion he undid the goalkeeper’s gloves before a corner and, although he strapped them back up before the corner was taken, Blackman seemed to be mentally distracted, causing him to drop the ball from the flag-kick. With the fine margins of football, it is important to get every possible advantage over an opponent, so little things like that can really help the team.
Have Pompey turned the corner?
One of my biggest criticisms of the Blues is that they don’t score enough goals from set pieces. However, against Wycombe they scored indirectly from two corners, which is especially impressive when one considers that the Chairboys are renowned for being a tall and physical side. One of my pet hates is short corners, but it was a short corner which led to Pompey winning a penalty which Gary Roberts tucked away. Maybe they do work after all! Maybe.
An off-day at the back
Pompey had kept four clean sheets in six games before this, but I was concerned at how easily Wycombe were able to break through the Blues’ defensive line in the first half. The first goal, in particular, was scored when a simple long ball was knocked into the danger area and Paul Hayes was allowed to get to the ball first. It was as if the defence were caught napping and seemed surprised when they conceded. But in a run of great work at the back, you will always get the odd game when things don’t go perfectly so I’m not too worried.
Pompey really struggled to cope when they temporarily went down to ten men. In the time between Curtis Main going off injured and Conor Chaplin being ready to come on, Pompey were a man down and were almost punished. Wycombe hit the bar with a really good chance during that time and, had that gone in, it would have been a very different game as the visitors would have been 2-0 up. Hopefully the Blues can learn to cope better with being down to ten men so that they can cope when the first red card of the season inevitably comes.
Blues need defensive balance
The Paul Cook way seems to be to try and pass the ball out from the back where possible, but sometimes players need to realise that an old-fashioned hoof into the stands is the sensible thing to do. Similarly, Tom Davies prefers no-nonsense clearances most of the time, when he would sometimes be better served by bringing the ball down and starting an attack. The second goal came as a result of failing to clear the ball properly from a previous attack, when a clearance into the stands would have averted the danger. Although it is good to see Pompey try and play the right way, defenders should use their common sense better with some decision making.
David Forde: 6 – Solid but unspectacular. Can’t be blamed for either goal.
Gareth Evans: 7 – Did well going forward and won the penalty, but a bit shaky defensively.
Christian Burgess: 7 – Was good coming out with the ball but not as assured in defence as usual. Not sure how much of a touch he had on his goal but I’m sure he’ll take it!
Tom Davies: 6 – Not as good as usual. Kicked it long needlessly on occasions.
Enda Stevens: 6 – Always a threat going forward but lost his man for the first goal.
Michael Doyle: 7 – A good battling performance in the midfield.
Danny Rose: 7 – Another consistent performance in midfield.
Carl Baker: 8 – Seems to have returned to form with a great performance and well-taken goal.
Gary Roberts***: 7 – Another good penalty but missed a sitter in the second half. Did well overall.
Milan Lalković**: 6 – Struggled to make an impact before going off at half-time. Didn’t look injured.
Curtis Main*: N/A – Got a head injury going for a brave header very early on.
Conor Chaplin*: 8 – Great goal and really good performance. Continues his great scoring record.
Kal Naismith**: 7 – Another hard-working display. Added physicality to the midfield.
Noel Hunt***: 6 – Came on too late to make any real impact on the match.