Last night the Blues hosted Blackpool and secured a great 2-0 win to make it two victories on the bounce for Paul Cook’s side. Goals from Gareth Evans and Eoin Doyle saw Pompey over the line as they put a great performance together with three points. Here are five things I learned about the Blues from last night’s games.
- Pompey fans have not lost their magic
On Monday the supporters’ group, SOS Pompey, issued a statement imploring Pompey fans to unite and get behind the players for the remainder of the season and, last night, supporters certainly rose to the challenge. Games under the lights at Fratton Park are always special, but this one mirrored last season’s play-off semi-final at times in terms of atmosphere. There was almost no negativity from the vast majority of supporters and I honestly feel that the positive atmosphere made it far easier for the players to get the win.
- Eoin Doyle is a willing runner
It is a long time since I have seen a striker cover as much ground over 90 minutes as Eoin Doyle did last night. Now, that is by no means a dig at Michael Smith as he is one of the hardest working strikers I have seen in a Pompey shirt, but Doyle reached another level against Blackpool. He spent 90 minutes chasing lost causes and pressuring defenders, which was especially impressive in the latter stages of the match when he was playing up front completely on his own. It didn’t look like it was going to be his night, but he finally scored the goal he deserved with virtually the last kick of the game after some great interplay with Carl Baker.
- Linganzi is a calming influence
While Danny Rose is probably more comfortable on the ball than the Congolese midfielder, Linganzi has a great impact on his team mates in midfield. His physical presence was key in breaking up Blackpool attacks and allowing the Blues to dominate possession. He also seems to have lots of time on the ball which helps to assert his authority in the midfield battle. Sometimes his decision making can be slightly suspect, having given the ball away a couple of times, but you can certainly understand why he has has played at a higher level.
- Full-backs are key to promotion challenge
A big part of Paul Cook’s playing style in the 4-2-3-1 system is his full-backs playing very high up the pitch, and this was seen clearly last night on several occasions. It was especially evident for Pompey’s opening goal, when Enda Stevens beat his man on the left wing and drove the ball across goal for the other full-back, Gareth Evans, to score at the far post. The two players also dug in in their own half, with Stevens making a goal-saving block at the far post to keep the score at 1-0 when, had the ball gone in, the game may have turned out very differently. The full-backs played a massive part in the performance, and that is why the Blues will be especially concerned that Evans had to be withdrawn with another injury, forcing Cook to switch to three at the back for the closing stages.
- Chances beginning to flow
The contrast between last night’s performance and the one on Saturday was striking, as the Blues could easily have scored five or six against Blackpool, whereas they hardly created anything at the weekend. Good chances were missed by Eoin Doyle, Carl Baker, and a couple from Gary Roberts over the course of the game. Roberts hit the bar and saw a header creep just wide of the far post, but it was encouraging to see Pompey’s creative spark showing through more clearly than in the last couple of matches. Pompey may not be taking all of them, but they were certainly creating enough chances last night.
On the whole I would say that last night’s match was one of the best performances of the last couple of seasons. It was very encouraging to see such a complete performance and it has come at the perfect time, restoring belief to many supporters that Pompey can still get promoted automatically. With just four points separating the Blues from Carlisle in third place and a comfortable five points ahead of eighth place, Pompey will now travel to Barnet in high spirits looking to produce a similar performance to last night’s win.