Pompey’s unbeaten home record was ended at Fratton Park this afternoon when Doncaster Rovers were able to claim a 2-1 win. Early goals from John Marquis and Andy Williams proved too much for the Blues to recover from as Carl Baker’s strike proved to be no more than a consolation. The hosts hit the bar in the second half but, in truth, never deserved to get anything out of the match, meaning they have lost two games on the bounce. Here is where I think Pompey’s problems lie:
Not enough aggression:
One of Paul Cook’s regular sound bites in post match interviews is that the Blues need to be more aggressive in both boxes. I would go further than that and say that Pompey need to be more aggressive all over the pitch. On several occasions Doncaster were able to win the ball in the midfield when Pompey players seemed to pull out of challenges. The problem with having a technically skilled team at this level is they often lack physicality and that weakness can be exploited by opponents.
Unfamiliar back four:
Matt Clarke came into the starting eleven to replace Tom Davies for his first league start of the season. Not only did he look rusty, but he struggled to form a central defensive partnership with Christian Burgess, with whom he hasn’t played for a considerable length of time. The pairing were at fault for both of Doncaster’s goals, which both came from long balls which should have been dealt with. Hopefully Pompey can eradicate their defensive issues before next week.
Can’t defend set pieces:
Pompey fans have become all too used to seeing the ball flying into the net from opposition set pieces over the last few seasons. Not matter who makes up the back four each week, the Blues seem unable to consistently defend balls into their box. Rovers’ second goal was even more worrying than the usual headers from corners, as it was simply a route-one ball forward from a free kick in the opposition half. The ball was flicked on and Andy Williams tucked it into the corner, and it was all too easy for the visitors.
Luck not on their side:
However much you analyse the mistakes Pompey made during the match, you cannot deny that, at times, they were simply unlucky. Carl Baker saw his looping effort hit the crossbar and Gary Roberts had a header cleared off the line by a remarkable back heel by the Doncaster defender. It was a piece of skill that would only come off at this level once in every 100 attempts, so Pompey will be frustrated that Lady Luck didn’t favour them on this occasion.
The Blues normally have a reputation as a passing team who play fluid football right through the side, but they seemed confused today in regards to their style of play. They seemed conflicted over whether to play the ball short or long, and on several occasions played themselves into trouble with short passes, and gave possession away by kicking it long needlessly at other times. They need to clarify how Cook wants them to play so that they can carry out a clear gameplan in future.
The overall performance was far worse than Pompey fans are used to at home, and although some of the reasons can be identified, it was simply an off-day for the Blues. Even the most reliable players such as Danny Rose and Michael Doyle were out of sorts, and Conor Chaplin and Gary Roberts were unable to continue the formidable partnership they have created in recent games. Hopefully it was just a poor display on the day and Pompey will be back to their usual selves on Saturday when they travel to Leyton Orient.