Two league wins in 2019 clearly indicates the significant slump in form that has blown automatic promotion hopes out of the window. The hapless performance on Saturday evening at the Valley is something the Fratton faithful have become familiar with in recent months.
Sitting back absorbing pressure and hoping that one of Jamal Lowe, Ronan Curtis and Gareth Evans can latch onto the limited knockdowns that Ollie Hawkins provides. Something clearly needs to change in order to gain momentum for the lottery of the play-offs.
Firstly, Kenny Jackett is a firm believer in his philosophy of playing direct, percentage football. This reaped rewards during the first-half of the season, however, the physical nature of his style of play has potentially had an impact on the players during a long season. Jackett’s persistence to continue with the same players and formation needs addressing.
The 4-2-3-1 formation has shown no progress since the turn of the year, and currently our best performances have come when adopting an alternative formation (first-half against Southend, and Barnsley at home). Teams have ‘sussed’ out the direct tactics and a change will be needed to be competitive in the play-offs.
So what change will be needed?
Barnsley at home was one of our most competitive performances against an opposition that I believe are the best side in the third-tier.
The formation adopted against the Tykes (4-3-3) allowed for a us to govern the midfield, which has been an issue since losing Ben Thompson. Tom Naylor was able to sit and break up play (which he did brilliantly), Bryn Morris and Ben Close had less defensive responsibility because of this and dictated the centre of the park.
It allowed for the ball to be played through the thirds and on the ground. Pompey fully deserved their point and probably a win. So, this begs the question why has Jackett reverted back to type after such an encouraging display?
This stubbornness could cost us dearly come the end of the season. If a 4-3-3 isn’t adopted, then potentially the 4-4-2 played against Southend could be the answer.
Two big powerful strikers proved to be a nightmare to handle and although the result was disappointing, the first half showed the potency that this team can provide.
Tuesday night provides an opportunity to put the disappointing trip to the Valley to bed and focus on gaining some momentum for the play-offs.
A change of formation and players is surely required to rejuvenate fans and provide some optimism after an incredibly disappointing few months.
Personally, I would like to see Dion Donohue replace Gareth Evans and play a flat 3 in midfield, Anton Walkes to replace Nathan Thompson and have one of Pitman, Vaughan or Bogle lead the line.
If a similar line-up to Saturday is used I am sure I won’t be the only person not overly encouraged or excited by Tuesday’s fixture.
What would your changes be Pompey fans?
Photo: Andrew Hurdle