A rare Friday game this week against a Cowley brothers Portsmouth, writes Tom Morton.
Pompey are on a bit of a rocky end to the season. A lackluster campaign away from Fratton Park has killed off playoff ambitions and by all accounts, recent performances described in the media as “abject”. It could have been very different. Portsmouth accelerated into 2022 with a string of six wins in seven through February and March. Then it all unraveled. Leaving Tuesday’s game aside, they haven’t won and scored just once since the middle of March.
It would be lovely to be facing Pompey in that form, but unfortunately, they are coming off the back of a slightly surprising 3-0 home win against Rotherham. Actually, it’s not that surprising After looking pretty unimpressive against us compared to their league position, Rotherham have gone on a terrible league run – losing every game and likely throwing away their automatic promotion prospects. So I am tempted to call Tuesday’s game a bit of a fluke.
Portsmouth’s home record has been fairly good this season. If you look at the stats their away performance is on par or slightly worse than ours (1.19 ppg vs. our 1.24). But at home Pompey have pulled wins in over 50% of their matches. Actually, aside from winning five more times overall than us – something I’d put down to more clean sheets – Portsmouth just feel incredibly similar to us. Our top scorers are on similar goals. They have about the same number of shots as us per game. The list goes on.
It’s hard to say how Portsmouth will line up because it sounds like they are facing a set of serious injury woes. Three of their four midfielders left the field injured on Tuesday and the latest news is that they may be out for Friday. That’s a big blow for any team and will have an effect on their formation and performance.
It’s probably not worth dwelling too much on tactics. We know what a Danny Cowley team looks and feels like, and that is how Portsmouth will play. For me the risk factors are the set pieces – we’ve felt shaky to these at some points during the season and we know the Cowley’s drill hard.
Of course, the Cowley’s will be in the dugout. But there are a number of familiar faces in the Pompey lineup. First up is Sean Raggett, hero of our 2017 FA Cup run (and scorer of that goal against Burnley). Raggett left us for Norwich in 2017 but was loaned first to Rotherham and then to Portsmouth in 2019. He joined Pompey on a permanent deal at the start of the 20/21 season. Interestingly the Cowley’s joined later that season so Raggett wasn’t a Cowley acquisition.
The other familiar face, though, very much is. Joe Morrell joined Pompey at the start of this season. I’ll be honest, I was gutted about this. I had a real soft spot for Joe during his time with us. He was a real livewire in midfield and exactly the sort of player we’d value this year. But Portsmouth’s pockets have been deep this year and so the Morrell’s of this world ended up at Fratton Park.
I’ll be honest, our League One performance has not been great against Pompey. Just one win in five and they have put nine goals in the net. The home game this season was a dire affair, a real season low 3-0 thrashing that I’d prefer to forget, where the only bright note was Freddie Draper’s brief spell leading the attack.
It’s tough to call Friday’s game. I am feeling hopeful. Tuesday aside, Pomey are in bad form and suffering injury woes. They are trending down. Whilst we’ve struggled to put together a run of form we have played a lot better in the last few weeks and it feels like it might just come together for the weekend.