Pompey had secured one win in twelve overall prior to their long trip north to face Accrington Stanley on Saturday; and while ultimately they extended said run to thirteen games, they at the very least applied the brakes on the back of two defeats that saw eight goals conceded overall.
It was a game that based on everything but the scoreboard indicated that Danny Cowley’s side should have left BB5 with all three points, only to once again rue their quality of finishing. Pompey putting themselves in a position to win a game is not something that’s been said too often this season, so in the hunt for some positives, this may be one of them.
The teased return to a back four came into existence at the Wham Stadium, with Connor Ogilvie partnering Sean Raggett in the centre, while Ryan Tunnicliffe dropped to the bench in favour of a midfield duo comprising Joe Morrell and Shaun Williams. Marcus Harness was deployed in behind John Marquis, with Reeco Hackett starting on the right flank.
Accrington remained unchanged in both personnel and system following their 3-2 midweek win at Charlton. They lined up in a 3-5-1-1, with Harry Pell behind Colby Bishop up top, Sean McConville and Ethan Hamilton marshalling the left and right flanks respectively.
The first half, and indeed much of the game, flowed the way of the visitors. The hosts were not taking good care of the football, and with their approach constantly leaving their wide men, the PO4 outfit spent much of the half breaking beyond the midfield bank and going at the back three. This opportunism yielded several chances for Williams, Marquis, and Harness, however each of their efforts were either straight at Toby Savin, or wide of the mark.
One chance however did rustle the net when Ronan Curtis ghosted into the penalty box unmarked. Lee Brown slipped the ball inside, and the Irishman’s effort found the onion bag via a deflection that snuck its way through Savin’s grasp.
Stanley were at best an occasional presence in the first half, rarely troubling the Pompey defence. Their best chance came when Hamilton beat both Williams and Brown down the line to fire a ball into the near post, where Bishop had darted ahead of Raggett, only to his close-range toe-poke roll wide.
The second half began a more open-ended affair, and it was just a few minutes until the equaliser came. Ross Sykes won a first header from a McConville corner, an uncontested Pell won the second, and the ball looped over Gavin Bazunu to tie the scores.
A fifteen minute wave of Pompey dominance followed, yet the score was unchanged following a long range Curtis effort cleared onto the post by Matt Butcher after Savin was caught off his line; a Harness one-on-one palmed away by Savin; and another Harness effort that was deflected wide by Sykes.
Butcher was the saviour at one end for Accrington, and then at the other. The Blues defence fell asleep from a long punt, which saw the ball fall to McConville on the left. His slide pass found Butcher who dinked over an onrushing Bazunu with thirteen to play.
Marquis missed a great chance to level almost immediately when he fired straight at Savin following Morrell’s delivery; but he would prove vital minutes later when he darted to the byline, drilled across the face of goal to find Harness alone at the back post, who ensured that the visitors at least had something to take home.
What We Learned
The words of Dr Frankenstein at the moment his creation came to life, Pompey’s showing in BB5 bore resemblance to a previously lifeless entity first entering this mortal coil. Of course, the Blues have put in similar gritty showings through the course of the season, yet they are few in number. However, following the capitulations against Rotherham and Ipswich, it was of some comfort that this team’s individual and collective will can make an appearance.
Considering that competing in a game of football is essentially the bare minimum required when you are paid to do so, this is not something that should be praised all too frequently. In light of the week they have gone through, on this occasion they do deserve praise for answering this fair charge. The onus is now on Cowley and his men to prove that the work ethic displayed at the Wham Stadium is the rule, and not the exception.
Reeco Likes A Back Threeco
One of the standout performances in Lancashire came from the fringe player, bringing productivity to match his usually energetic displays. Certainly in the first half, he had McConville scrambling defensively as he often got into the space behind the midfield, linking up with Harness on multiple occasions. It was by far his best performance to date, and may feel unlucky that his name didn’t have an assist next to it.
With Hackett, the consistency of his productivity is that which holds him back. His best games come against back threes that don’t get much support from their wide men. In space, with time to control the ball and get going, he is a threat. What he needs to be able to do to progress further, is tighten the radius of said control, and make his decisions quicker. Against a back four and in tighter areas, this is where he’s failed to make his energy count. Hopefully, yesterday can be a catalyst for him.
Gavin Bazunu – 6 – Offered more protection, brave in some ball collection, but failed to cover himself in glory with the Pell equaliser.
Mahlon Romeo – 5 – Still struggling with positional awareness defensively, and his attacking contribution wasn’t enough to make up for a quiet game overall.
Sean Raggett – 5 – Dealt with most that came his way, until caught watching for the second goal which allowed Butcher to charge into the gap.
Connor Ogilvie – 6 – Went about his business fairly efficiently, coped well overall in a physical battle.
Lee Brown – 6 – Needs to get out and close down quicker, allowing too many balls into the box. Did get an assist.
Shaun Williams – 6 – Competitive in the middle, did his part in not letting Accrington control the middle, partnered with Morrell well.
Joe Morrell – 8 – Game by game his influence grows. A positive presence on the ball going forward combined with a couple of well-timed challenges.
Reeco Hackett – 7 – His best showing yet, not quite the same second half, but a consistent threat in the opening 45.
Marcus Harness – 7 – Scored that late equaliser, but could have been more with some more clinical finishing. Linked well with multiple players.
Ronan Curtis – 6 – Opened the scoring, but tainted another decent showing with another needless yellow card. Seven in twelve starts now.
John Marquis – 6 – His energy up top was again let down by missing two glorious opportunities. Remained a presence in the game long enough to set up the equaliser.
Louis Thompson (12 mins) – N/A
Ryan Tunnicliffe (6 mins) – N/A
Michael Jacobs (5 mins) – N/A
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Photo: Jake Smith