Handbags At Dawn

By Dan Brett 

It was an unflattering result and display as Pompey succumbed to a 2-1 home defeat against Stevenage.

And it was a bitter pill to swallow after an impressive away win at Luton on Tuesday night.

Christian Burgess and Michael Doyle – two of Paul Cook’s “mainstay” players according to the Pompey boss – were hooked at half-time after what was later called a “dressing room bust-up”.

An odd moment for fourth-placed Pompey, who had it all to play for having gone into the break on equal terms.

There’s no denying the double-switch changed the host’s fortunes as a crazy second half spell saw Stevenage bag two quick goals, with Michael Smith’s fine finish only a consolation.

The result, and altercation at the interval, seems to have thrown down a marker for some Pompey fans, who are now questioning whether Cook has lost the dressing room altogether.

But let’s keep this well within reason, shall we?

We’re fourth.

We’re still within touching distance of top.

It’s November.

The players care – and sometimes that manifests in odd ways.

We’ve still got a long way to go.

And, let’s not forget, we still have another transfer window coming up and we’ve only got League Two to focus on.

The big questions to come out of yesterday, for me, are ones which will be answered in the next few weeks. The most important of those? The captaincy.

I think Doyle has been fantastic since joining and, despite the odd poor performance, he’s been solid enough in midfield. But there’s a fine difference between leading a team and getting yourself involved in arguments you should be well away from.

That’s one for Cook to diagnose and it’ll be interesting to see what happens over the next few matches. It’s no secret that there’s been a few arguments across the park this season – a lack of team morale, perhaps?

And then there’s the players we currently have. The “mainstay”.

In my book, there should be no guaranteed starters. We’ve got some who walk into the team and have an excellent appearance – maybe one in five – but go missing in following matches. Roberts, Baker, Bennett to name just three.

And then you’ve got players like Stevens, Forde, Evans, Rose. On their days, they’re excellent – but all prone to error. Mind you, perhaps that’s why they’re playing in League Two.

I like Evans and Stevens but I feel both are being played out of position. Both fill the full-back role well and are capable of getting forward and stretching the pitch. But neither are solid at the back.

It’ll be interesting to see what happens with Buxton and Talbot over the next few months. Both brought in by Cook, and both seldom feature in his matchday squad for one reason or another.

More questions than answers from Cook so far, but any talk of axing him is ridiculous. It’s November, we’re doing well and we’ve yet to get a real run together.

Just wait until we do…

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