The ‘International’ Break – the clean slate Pompey need?  

It has been a while since Pompey fans have experienced a September period as sparse as the beginning of the 2019/20 season. Not since 2011, have players and fans alike, enjoyed (or been frustrated by) an early season International sojourn such as this.

Of course, the Southend postponement decision aside, an enforced International break is only part of the issue (I use it to feel superior against our league rivals, whilst we temporarily flounder in the third tier) – as the fixture list has been rocked by the calamitous circumstances at Bury.

However, this break, although presently frustrating – is it just what Portsmouth need?

The first five league matches have delivered a juddering, stop start to a season, with a win at home to Tranmere offset by unsatisfactory performances at Shrewsbury, Sunderland and Blackpool.

These results compounded by an abject second half display both tactically, and in terms of character, at home to Coventry – a capitulation which has seen murmurings from the Fratton faithful over the future of the club’s manager.

This indifferent form has seen Pompey rack up an unconvincing five points from their first five games, leaving them in 18th place a ten-point climb behind the league leaders Wycombe, where Portsmouth will travel a week on Saturday.

 The uncertain run of Pompey form has been supported by an undetermined selection policy, decisions both enforced and voluntary. As Harness limped off against Blackpool on the 40th minute, Portsmouth were without six first team squad members an absence that has seen Jackett without a definitive response in plugging the gaps.

Vagueness in selection at right-back, in addition to regular changes in the centre back positions, has left the team lacking clarity in defence, a familiarity that the team has had in previous seasons.

Away from the pitch, the club has been in further malaise at the decision to remove Brett Pitman and Gareth Evans from senior leadership positions.

Two fan favourites, the decision has understandably been met with some unease, with the timing of the decision coming under particular scrutiny.

From a tactical point of view, if Evans and Pitman continue to play the role of squad players rather than first team regulars, the decision is sound, however, it seems unwise to undermine two players who have given much to the club in the last few seasons.

The confusion at the decision is perhaps particularly prevalent in the case of Evans, as he has featured frequently to date, erroneous substitutions or otherwise.

The source of these issues are hard to pinpoint, and perhaps, if over-analysed cause room for unnecessary panic and bluster. Like many, I firmly believe that at this point in the season there is no need to panic.

The first five matches of the season have as expected, proved a much sterner test for the Blues, as Portsmouth’s pre-season campaign saw no opposition from league one and above, with Portsmouth playing the majority of their games against teams from outside the football league.

Self-affirming results these games may have provided, but did they allow the test Portsmouth needed? And did the match planning reciprocate what we have seen as the league has got underway?

Evidence would suggest not, with a team still lacking fluidity and perhaps one too many injuries for a team that should be fresh and ready at the season’s opener.

As a consequence, the season to date has illustrated weaknesses and where there is work to be done. Therefore, this break may provide the perfect tonic, as the internal reflections that fans hope are taking place in training, could empower a clean slate to drive the team forward as they restart their season next week.

The League one season is long, with another forty games to go for Portsmouth to stake their claim. Last season’s champions should provide the inspiration, Luton’s slow start was rectified by a record breaking 29 game unbeaten run.

Similarly, we can take courage from Portsmouth’s own League Two winning campaign, where Portsmouth only lost two of their last seventeen league games to clinch the title.

Social media channels, pub corners and kitchen tables alike are rife with mutterings of discontent from numerous Portsmouth fans. In many respects, the unease is warranted, but it is too early to lose faith.

The hope is that the break will give the team some much needed time to continue to gel ahead of the 17th and the arrival of Burton Albion.

Fans should never forget, that momentum in sport is everything, and with the talent incumbent in the Portsmouth squad, it won’t take much for the tide to turn.

One big result under the lights, could be the precursor to a rocking Fratton Park and a team surging up the league table.

Henry Adams

Photo: Portsmouth FC

 

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