Fan’s View – Pompey

Photo courtesy of Jon Whiles Photography
Photo courtesy of Jon Whiles Photography
Article by Paul Beasley

HOME IS WHERE THE HURT IS

Looks like we are never going to sort out our home form under Chris Wilder. Is it his fault? If it is to do with the fans not getting behind the team, then no it isn’t. If it is to do with some curse on the stadium coupled with its partial completion that makes it a laughing stock – yes I’ve said it – no it isn’t. And when I say partial completion I’m not just talking about the lack of a fourth stand that should replace that fecking ugly fence I’ve been looking at for over a decade. I’m also talking about those hideous gaps in the corners. I want stands in each and every one of them not bloody flats. We had a dream, but let’s face it that dream is pretty bloody sour at the moment isn’t it? Thames Valley Royals, no bloody way, but what happened to that other lot who would have lost their identity if the experiment concocted in the warped mind of Robert Maxwell had gone ahead? Could that have been us? Should that have been us? What would have happened if we’d had a John Madejski (now an OBE) come along instead of Robin Herd and then Firoz Kassam?

POMPEY

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The Radio Oxford debate boiled down to was it a point gained or two lost? Have we really come to this? Portsmouth are near the bottom and were not very good. No debate in my mind; it was two points lost and another depressing afternoon out. It’s laughable that we’ve supposedly got ambitions for automatic promotion on the evidence of what we see at Minchery Farm time and again and again.

Sadly we were no better than Pompey and that neither keeper was extended throughout the ninety plus minutes tells of another yawn fest.

I thought that the first half an hour was largely forgettable. We passed the ball about in an okay fashion but just seemed happy that by having possession the opposition didn’t. It was all very static. There was no movement into space, no breaking as a unit at speed, no link up play with two or three players getting close to each other looking for a give and go with telling progression towards Trevor Carson’s goal.

From an attacking perspective Ryan Williams was more than a class above the rest. On one occasion in that first spell he moved past a few blue shirts but soon found himself all alone in Pompey territory. Where Deane Smalley and Sean Rigg (Man of the Match – oh, how I laughed) were hiding I don’t know.

For the last third of the first half I thought we improved and I credit this to Williams (but perhaps I’m biased). He played a one two which forced even a pedestrian team like ours to go forward as a unit and, whilst the move partially broke down, we picked it up and got a decent attack going. (Yes, I know, hard to believe). Thereafter I noted yellow shirts were moving into space in midfield and things looked more promising. But half time arrived with no goals and no real threat.

The second half came and went with no goals, quite a few high balls that we never looked like doing anything with and not much entertainment. The chance Danny Rose had was from too tight an angle to blame him for missing but Riggy’s wild slash suggested either a lack of technique or nasty bobble. (I’ll come back to pitches later).

After seeing Saturday’s offering I can’t help but come over all pessimistic here but in all this it would be unfair to overlook a very good defensive display. The return of Michael Raynes was probably a key factor in the return to form of the back line. He made one howler early on but a team mate got him out of trouble. I liked the quick hand slap after this which demonstrated good team spirit.

If our midfield and forwards were as good as defenders I would be much more optimistic about final position come early May.

Another reason for our defensive solidarity may have been Johnny Mullins in midfield playing just in front of the back four. But why? Was it because our squad is so thread bare that we had to pick whoever was fit and not suspended? Because there’s no way we should have to set ourselves up in such a way at home against a team just above the relegation zone if there are other more ATTACKING options available.

Danny Rose had another good game. His work rate is good; he doesn’t lose possession and does get forward a bit every now and then. Nicky Wroe looks like he will be a useful acquisition and one can assume / hope he will improve with games played. But for all that there’s still something missing from that part of the team creatively and from the perspective of a being a goal threat.

We didn’t have wide men but if we did they would have been Rigg and Williams. I’ve quite liked what Riggy has done at OUFC so far but when I heard “if we had someone else any good Rigg wouldn’t be in the team at the moment” I couldn’t help but agree.
Williams though is something else. Quicker of foot and mind than most around him. I thought he played quite a few Kitson like balls, balls that League Two players sometimes don’t anticipate.

As for our strikers, and I’m not talking about the deep lying Dave Kitson here, I’ll just say that I think we need at least one new one (& better than what we’ve already got, obviously). Occasionally we’ve seen a few glimpses that Deane Smalley might be a half decent footballer but his time with us has been largely disappointing. (Still baffled why we gave him a new contract). Some people argue that he holds the ball up better than Beano – well that’s not saying anything much is it? But I don’t recall him holding the ball up on Saturday, I don’t recall him making any decent runs or cry out for the ball. I don’t recall him having one effort on goal. Neither can I recall Beano doing much in his half an hour other than being a bit more aggressive than Smalley. We may be the joint fifth highest scorers but that won’t last unless there is a dramatic change to our current form and approach. I will also say that on this occasion I didn’t think our opponents had anything better. I wasn’t impressed with Patrick Agyemang, although that may have been down to our excellent defence.

And it’s not just me – here’s a marvellous line from Andy McCormac on Facebook, “There’s no belief or passion when we go forward. One up front? Is that because we have a full back for manager? We go round and round in more circles than the access to Sainsbury’s car park in Bicester when we attack…”

All very bleak but there is some reason to be a bit more optimistic than I’ve come over so far (and I hope I’m not clutching at straws):
• Kitson has now served his suspension.
• The long term injured should, if we are to believe what we are told, be available in February which isn’t too far away now. We could do with an on form Alfie Potter although his position is Williams’ isn’t it? Would be nice to see what young Jonathon Meades has to offer but I’m not hearing good things on the Andy Whing front.
• We’ve got some (well at least one) away games coming up.

PITCH BATTLE

Perhaps it is the same throughout the country given the inclement weather we’ve suffered recently but I thought our pitch looked quite poor. No pass along the ground remained firmly on the ground as it bobbled along a clearly not pristine playing surface. We can’t do anything about the downpours but the rugby can’t be helping. The area where we had the troubles last season is showing evidence of wear and tear again already.

But compared with the Valley ours is a bowling green. I don’t get that the FA / Football league have all these regulations about standards for football grounds yet these don’t cover the playing area. How on earth have Charlton been able to get away with neglecting their pitch for 17 years? If we were a proper team at home I’d be calling for them to be made to forfeit home advantage.Bog

I’m expecting news on Monday that Tuesday’s game will be off.