Battle of the leaky defences – can Pompey come out on top against Bolton?

By Sam Stone

A point away to Accrington Stanley, on paper, isn’t the sort of season-defining result that will be looked back on with any great significance. However, if Pompey manage to muster anything from this stagnant season, the point at the Wham Stadium could well have been a turning point.

If Pompey had downed tools yet again then serious questions would’ve been asked about Danny Cowley’s position. Pompey have had plenty of recent woes at the Wham Stadium and the scenic Lancashire town looked the perfect stage for another Blue’s capitulation. Yet, Pompey’s first-half display was about as accomplished as we’ve seen this season. Cowley is not wrong in saying Pompey had enough chances to win multiple games.

On their day this side has shown they can be a threat, however, the main positive for Cowley is his side’s reaction to falling behind. As we all know, in the two previous fixtures, Pompey’s response has been non-existent. They showed some character on Saturday. It doesn’t deserve heaps of praise, but it is something to build on. The big test for Pompey is to react to disappointment correctly again.

Pompey’s first-half performance demonstrated what this side is capable of; particularly showing the variety of ways they hurt Accrington. The Blue’s first four chances came from pressing high up the pitch and initiating attacks from high positions.

They also utilised the pace of Reeco Hackett on the counter-attack on two different occasions, with Toby Savin making two fine saves. Hackett produced his finest display in a Pompey shirt, displaying the pace and dribbling ability that could see him thrive at this level. Hackett playing on the right also allowed Marcus Harness to move centrally, where he is far more effective.

The Blue’s opening goal was another good example of the variety of attacks they were putting together, with Ronan Curtis finishing off a 12 pass move that had pulled Accrington all over the pitch and out of position.

If the Blues can maintain the attacking threat we saw at Accrington and also muster the same character they showed to get the equaliser then it is certainly something to build on.

This Saturday Pompey take on a stalling Bolton Wanderers side. The recently promoted Trotters made a flying start to the season but have failed to find a win in four matches whilst encountering heavy defeats to Plymouth and Wigan in recent weeks.

It is obvious to see where Bolton are letting themselves down. They currently lie 12th but have the second-best expected goals in the division, which suggests they are significantly underperforming in certain areas. The Trotters have the division’s leakiest defence with conceded 25 goals so far. At the other end, Ian Evatt’s men boast some of the most potent attacking numbers which yet again highlights how the defensive failures are hindering their season.

Evatt’s side will look to dominate the ball, averaging 58% of the ball so far this season. This expansive, possession-based style has certainly reaped offensive rewards, with Wanderers currently having the most shots and touches in the opposition box in the division.

The Trotters’ stand-out performer has been Oladapo Afolayan. The former West Ham man has completed 50 more dribbles than any other player in League One. His tussle with Marlon Romeo will be a key battle in this encounter.

Pompey had plenty of first-half success pressing Accrington high up the pitch. Given that Bolton like to have possession and play out from the back, Pompey must press as they did at the start of the season.

Harness, Marquis, Curtis, and Hackett could all have plenty of success against this leaky Bolton defence if the ball is won early high up the pitch. Harness to continue his goalscoring form, both teams to score and hopefully, a Pompey win, wouldn’t be a bad shout.

A reminder to fans to take your seats before 2:45pm for the Pompey Remembrance Service

Photo: Below 2020 Media

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