At half time, two of our subs sat on the bench and didn’t arm up straight away. One was Adam Jackson, carrying another injury, but they seemed to put the same effort into keeping warm as 90% of the outfield player put into winning the ball and passing it during the game. I didn’t like to see that.
What I did like to see was a slight upturn in the second half. I felt McGrandles improved from maybe 3/10 to 5/10, and I felt Regan Poole could maybe hold his head a little higher than the others. In fact, we almost looked like we’d get back into the game, until we just gifted another goal and the game effectively ended. It was simple stuff again, and Pompey could have been ahead before that after hitting the inside of the post. The difference was when they went forward, they had players capable of getting in behind. When we went forward, we lacked ideas. That’s not to say we didn’t create, we did, but nobody looked like taking the chances we did serve up.
I thought we looked better once Adelakun came on, although doubtless he’ll get slated as he always does. At least he offered width for Poole or Fiorini when we broke, and he helped serve up a couple of crosses. A better player gobbles the chances we created up, and who knows, at 2-1 the tide could turn. The home crowd just wanted something to cheer, but instead we just got served up disappointment. One good cross was stabbed wide by N’Lundulu, who sadly hasn’t fulfilled my prophecy of ‘get one goal, he’ll get a shed load’. Spoiler; he hasn’t, and I’m afraid despite his efforts, I don’t see him reaching double figures for us. Right now, I’d be happy if he got to three.
I said the crowd wanted something to cheer and I stand by that. Usually, I feel there’s an undercurrent amongst some of this support, as if they want a scapegoat, but that wasn’t the case tonight. Every little break lifted those around me, only for it to be dashed as N’Lundulu ran into three players, or we committed a foul in a build up, or we shaped to shoot and it got blocked. I haven’t looked at social media, and for my sanity, I won’t, but I didn’t feel that people were apathetic towards our efforts, even at 2-0. Sometimes, the crowd get hacked off quickly, but this evening I felt they showed patience that simply wasn’t rewarded. Even when the two ex-Imps got booked there was a raised hope of the game getting a bit tasty, but for that to happen we’d have to commit to tackles and headers. Only a couple of players did. In fairness, I thought Poole and Robson at least looked like they wanted to compete, Draper battled hard and Maguire always fights, but four out of ten isn’t enough. Oddly, four out of ten is probably the rating the other six outfield players will get if you’re being generous.
It’s hard to know what more to write. Our best spell came after their second goal, they perhaps took the foot off the gas a bit, and we were able to try to create. I thought Adelakun, Maguire and Poole looked to link up relatively well, and I firmly believe they’ll all start on Saturday. Fiorini got on the ball in better positions late on as well, I’m not really sure why that happened after Sorensen and Bishop went off, but it did. I heard Michael wants to ring the changes for the weekend, but what does he do? Adam Jackson will come in for TJ, almost certainly, but then what do we do? Adelakun for Sorensen perhaps and Bishop in midfield (if he hasn’t picked up a knock), but almost certainly we’ve got to see Max Sanders, surely? I’ve been saying Fiorini needs a spell out of the side, just to gain a bit of confidence and get out of the firing line, and after tonight’s performance, it’s a must. We have to have a midfield willing to challenge for header’s willing to throw the tackles in and for me, Max Sanders does that. I’d have to say that even if Michael still isn’t sure about Max, he really couldn’t be any worse than the players that started in his position this evening.
I’ll repeat myself here; we know what we lack in terms of the squad, we know what we need come January and who we haven’t replaced, but that doesn’t excuse what we saw tonight. You cannot blame the summer recruitment for players missing headers and pulling out of tackles, you can’t blame injuries for professionals, paid to play football, passing to blue shirts. There is no blame, nowhere to hide; this evening was not good enough and did a huge disservice to the 7500 or more home fans that came to watch. We do have square pegs in round holes, we do lack depth and we have got a shocking injury record, but I still feel that the XI we put out tonight, pound for pound, had it in them to match that Pompey side. That’s not to say they were bad, but were they better than Rotherham, or Plymouth? Not really, but they didn’t have to be. They turned up, played like a team and that was enough. If we’d played as we did at Wigan, or Hillsborough, that game ends a draw at best for us. However, when you have players in your side who come from Premier League academies, who have represented their country at different levels, or who have played 200 odd professional games, and your Man of the Match is a 17-year-old kid making his first start for the club, you know that overall, it’s not been a good night.
Still, look on the bright side; Freddie Draper looked decent, didn’t he? Silver lining and all that. At least they didn’t take the kettle.
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