Eastern Road Debrief: Portsmouth 0-2 Sutton United – Blues On Brink Of Early Exit

By Ryan Stillwell

Following Pompey’s 4-0 beatdown of Sunderland in the league, international duty provided a ten-day break for the Blues. As such their return to the action came in their second EFL Trophy Group Stage fixture, this time taking on Sutton United, embarking on their first ever EFL adventure.

The end-to-end barn-burner in South-West London in September which resulted in a 5-3 win for AFC Wimbledon in Pompey’s first group game was a far cry from the showing at Fratton Park. The Amber and Chocolates left PO4 with all three points after putting a performance laden with maximum conviction, meanwhile the Blues look set to depart the competition at the group stage on the back of a limp effort.

Overview

Outside of Sean Raggett and Lee Brown, it was very much a second string sent out by Danny Cowley, as he sought to offer his fringe players the opportunity to prove themselves ahead of the League One fixture schedule churning out a large chunk of games heading into the growing darkness of the year. United also made changes, made up of roughly half their first team, 

In truth, Pompey were overall utterly disinterested and disconnected from the game, wasting the time of every fan who put in the effort to show up. As such, the ERD’s review of this game will follow suit. The game from a Pompey perspective, went like this:

1 – Kickoff

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55 – 0-1

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71 – 0-2

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89 – Reeco Hackett has Pompey’s first shot

FT – 0-2

It was an atrocious showing from most of the Blues players on the evening, outfought by a Sutton side that while suffered in technical prowess, often failing to execute in the final third, were able to control the game courtesy of their energy, strong work ethic, and collective desire to win.

What We Learned

There’s Nothing More To Learn

For some Pompey players, the end of the 21/22 season needs to hurry up. Michael Jacobs and Paul Downing in particular have endured highly frustrating Pompey careers, and with their contracts up at the end of the season, it will be of relief to all parties when they can part ways. 

Downing showed nothing more or less than was already known to Pompey fans before injury ended his game in the first half; and Jacobs looked like a man who just didn’t want to be there at all. Granted, he was supposed to depart in the summer before his transfer to Ipswich Town collapsed, but this a large chunk of dead money for no return sat on Pompey’s wage bill.

Pompey’s First XI Have To Carry The Day

Following the defeat against Wimbledon, Cowley laid into his side, stating that the fringe players won’t make the first team playing like that. The same was even more apparent in this latest defeat. It’s concerning that squad rotation will have to play a role in the months to come as games come thick and fast; but looking at the options on the bench, the question must be asked: Who can actually make an impact late in the game?

George Hirst and Gassan Ahadme were a hapless pairing up top, a myriad of woeful first touches and poor movement rendered them useless against a Sutton backline that looked undisturbed by it all. Preseason may have been a promising showing from Ahadme; but all that goodwill has burned away in the face of ineffectual showings in both league and cup. Hirst likewise does far too little to warrant inclusion even on the bench in a league setting. These two combined, and those such as Jacobs and Downing above, are the current backup for the Blues, then the best chance this side has of winning games is to be multiple goals ahead by the 60 minute mark, before the substitutes enter the fray.

Ratings

Alex Bass – 5 – While Sutton grew throughout the game, Bass was left with little to do in the early knockings. Made one smart save, but could do nothing about either close range goal.

Paul Downing – 5 – Struggled early with the pace of the Sutton top end, exiting before half-time through injury.

Sean Raggett – 7 – The most consistent performer this season put in another solid showing on Tuesday, setting the standard that nobody else could meet. “Raggett wins the header” was the most common commentary phase of the evening.

Lee Brown – 5 – Looked uncertain for much of the evening in an unfamiliar centre-back role. Hoped to combine with Hackett to progress up the field, largely to no avail.

Mahlon Romeo – 5 – Energetically wasteful, Romeo was at least putting the graft in to move Pompey up the field, yet with the Blues registering their first shot in the 89th minute, it was all for naught.

Haji Mnoga – 4 – Exited the game at the half through injury, yet struggled throughout with positioning in both defensive and attacking structures. 

Louis Thompson – 4 – Some early challenges from Thompson hinted at a good evening, but it all faded when Sutton’s midfield completely overran Pompey. Thompson faded into irrelevancy.

Reeco Hackett – 4 – He’s never been known for his first touch, or having a right foot, but all of his hard running was diminished by his own shortcomings in a fruitless display. He did have a shot though.

Michael Jacobs – 2 – The performance of a man who didn’t want to be there (and soon won’t be), Jacobs was a disasterclass in sloped shoulders and poor attitude. A total lack of movement, an awful first touch, and a series of petulant fouls (one leading to the opener), was the final nail in the coffin that the Jacobs x Pompey relationship just needs to end as soon as possible.

Gassan Ahadme – 3 – Random spurts of energy failed to disguise a total lack of execution and effect in the final third, often losing the ball before even getting there.

George Hirst – 3 – Drifting around Sutton’s backline for the evening, Hirst won the ***occasional*** flick-on. No relationship with Ahadme didn’t help, and was cut adrift by a hapless Jacobs behind him.

SUBSTITUTES

Kieron Freeman – 3 – Struggled massively at right centre-back once again after coming on in the 43rd minute. Both Sutton scorers were initially being marked by Freeman at the set pieces, before losing both as the ball came in. Lapses in concentration have costs him and his side again.

Shaun Williams – 4 – Entered at the start of the second half, Williams was more composed on the ball in central midfield, but his only telling impact was the clumsy foul that led to Sutton’s second goal.

Ellis Harrison – N/A – Harrison was only on the field for nine minutes before suffering an injury that ended his evening. 


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