Yesterday’s defeat to Oxford, coupled with the poor performance against Blackpool have potentially raised questions regarding Pompey’s promotion credentials.
The Oxford performance in particular was not close to a table-topping side. Kenny Jackett has an effective style of play, that has been successful in picking up victories so far this season. The majority of these wins have been by the odd goal and shutting up shop.
However, instances like yesterday offered an example of the attacking impotence this style can produce when falling behind early. Oxford’s first goal was a perfect example of an incisive and direct pass that allowed Cameron Branagan to fire the Us into the lead.
The lack of quality passes into the front men was concerning. Without a quality striker playing, passing from midfield looked like a problem area that needs addressing.
Recruitment during this window is crucial to maintain a team’s hopes and aspirations for the season. Last season the Blues January was window second-rate, let’s hope this window does not replicate last year’s disappointment.
Work has been done to replace the influential Ben Thompson with two players for the future, in line with Pompey’s current ethos. Yet the other key areas to recruit remain untouched.
A team that is top of the league with a golden chance to return to the second-tier, needs quality additions that can hit the ground running to push them over the line. Pompey’s position in the league along with their financial situation should be enough to entice the calibre of player to push us to promotion, if the owners back the manager and are indeed in a position for Championship football at this time.
It is hard to argue against what Kenny Jackett’s side have been doing on the pitch for the majority of the season, and the fact they are top of the league. Nevertheless, this has been largely based on our defensive ability and a canny knack to Knick victories by the odd goal.
The start of December saw Pompey’s last clean sheet, putting extra emphasis on the attacking players to seal victories. The sustained dip in our defensive form has exposed our attack.
Ultimately clean-sheets must be a priority for Jackett and his men to work on and subsequently reduce the pressure on the offensive end of the pitch until the front-man issue is resolved.
Ollie Hawkins’ absence looked to be an issue yesterday, he is key to Jackett’s play, which has been made clear with his continued inclusion when fit. The aimless pumps up to Jamal Lowe, David Wheeler and Brett Pitman (when he came on) were inefficient.
It will be interesting to see if results and performances substantially improve when the big target-man is back. It was apparent today that there needs to be a plan b which is capable of getting results when Pompey don’t have a target man on the pitch.
Whilst we have no divine right to the Premier League, an opportunity for Championship football is a reasonable aspiration for most Pompey fans and from our current position the thought of missing out, for many at the very least a missed opportunity. The next two weeks may reveal all.
Photo: Liam Howes