The Blues are still finding it difficult to perform well consistently as they prepare to travel to the Abbey to face Cambridge United on Saturday. A 2-1 defeat at home at the hands of Notts County has been the latest in a series of disappointing results, and they have now lost consecutive home league matches. In between defeats to Doncaster and Notts County, there were good performances in a win at Leyton Orient and a good point away at Plymouth but, once again, consistency seems to be the problem for Paul Cook’s men.
The U’s started the season in terrible form, as it took them until their ninth league game to record a win, but since then they have improved. Despite propping up the table for the first few weeks, they have now moved up to 19th place after winning a relegation six-pointer against Exeter City at the weekend. Cambridge are undoubtedly underachieving in the league, as many saw them as possible promotion contenders going into the season.
One to watch:
Shaun Derry has no shortage of quality players available to him, and the likes of Luke Berry who has scored five goals already this season, Piero Mingoia who was a key figure in Accrington’s promotion chase last term, and Medy Elito, who is regarded as one of the most skilful players in the division, are far too good to find themselves anyway near the foot of League Two. One player who has performed, however, is Will Norris. The goalkeeper grabbed headlines early this season by saving two stoppage time penalties against Accrington Stanley, and has already saved a remarkable five spot-kicks this term. Shaun Derry recently came out and said that Norris is the best goalkeeper in the division, and Pompey’s front men will have to be at their best to score past him on Saturday.
The U’s lined up against the Grecians in a 4-2-3-1 formation, similar to that which is usually employed by Paul Cook. However, due to the suspension of Luke Berry, who occupied the central attacking midfield role on Saturday, Derry may be tempted to pick a more conservative option to replace him so that the lineup is more akin to a 4-3-3 than a 4-2-3-1. Hopefully Cambridge will go toe-to-toe with Pompey on their own patch, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they try and employ similar counter attacking tactics to those used by Notts County on Saturday.
We’ve seen you before…:
Cambridge could line up with a couple of familiar faces to Pompey fans. James Dunne has been a revelation for the U’s since leaving Pompey, and he will almost certainly start. He will probably get a good reception from the travelling supporters, as he was well-liked by the fans but never found himself in Paul Cook’s plans and managed just one substitute appearance in the Capital One Cup before his contract was terminated. A more prominent part of last season for Pompey was Adam McGurk. The ex-Burton man joined Cambridge in the summer after making 27 appearances for the Blues, scoring two goals. McGurk came under criticism from many Pompey supporters and is unlikely to enjoy a particularly warm reception if he plays.
As I said above, Pompey are really struggling to put together a run of good results and will need to get a win in order to ensure they don’t fall too far behind the automatic promotion positions. There is no need to panic yet as the Blues sit comfortably in the fifth place ready to replace any of the top three teams if they slip up, but with five points now separating Pompey and Doncaster in third position it is important that Pompey don’t slip up again or they will find themselves dropping out of the play-offs.
After a lack of potency up front on Saturday it will be interesting to see if Paul Cook chooses to switch up his team as they travel to the Abbey. Conor Chaplin retained his place up front and although he scored, he could easily have got on the scoresheet a couple more times over the course of the match. With that in mind, Paul Cook will be weighing up whether to stick with the academy graduate or give Curtis Main a start. Amine Linganzi put in a man of the match display to silence his critics so he will most likely keep his place too. I would not be surprised to see some rotation in the attacking midfield positions, possibly with Milan Lalković coming in for Carl Baker. Here is my predicted lineup:
The inconsistent nature of Pompey’s form means that after a draw and loss should come a win…? That’s my logic anyway, as I’m going to go for a 2-1 Pompey win. The Blues have a very good record against Cambridge, after beating them 6-2 two seasons ago and 3-1 in the fixture last season. Hopefully Pompey can continue the positive record and get the first of a succession of wins.
Man of the Match prediction:
In the past couple of seasons Pompey have had to rely on Matt Tubbs for goals against Cambridge, as he has scored five in the last two away fixtures against the club. This season, however, goals have mainly come from Conor Chaplin and Gary Roberts, and I can see the same thing happening on Saturday as the pair look to continue their lethal partnership. I’m predicting Gary Roberts to score and be the star man for Pompey.
First goalscorer prediction:
When Roberts and Chaplin play in the same team, they can usually be relied upon to create chances. I am expecting Roberts to be in good form tomorrow which means Chaplin will get a few opportunities in front of goal, and he rarely misses too many chances. He is my pick for first goalscorer, and will hopefully celebrate his new contract with second goal in two weeks.