We travel to Portsmouth tomorrow, having been freed of the Danny Cowley and Michael Appleton comparison.
It was inevitable that those would be made when both managers had managed both clubs, but we’ve now moved on from Michael, and it seems that’s been able to dampen the media’s obsession with Danny and Lincoln. It might be because the Echo have seemingly abandoned the Imps completely, and Radio Lincolnshire have a bit more about them, but there’s been little talk of Danny’s time here in the news and the match is better for it. They’re in another place now, as are we, and hopefully that means idle comparisons are left where they belong.
Mark Kennedy is looking to take the Imps up the league, but games don’t come much tougher than away at Fratton Park. We’ve won there in my lifetime, that being the victory two seasons ago, but before that, our last victory in that part of Hampshire came as we won 2-0 on September 17th 1977. Peter Graham and an own goal gave us the win and at the end of the season, Pompey were relegated with just four home victories. I’d expect them to have won that many at home by the time September 17th 2022 is done.
The home side are the overwhelming favourite for the game, with City needing to be excellent to bring even a point home from the long trek. Luckily, there are no new injury concerns, which is a good start, as Mark explained in his pre-match press conference.
With that in mind, I’ve put together the team I think will take the field tomorrow against Portsmouth, with some justification for my selection.
I think the keeper and back four pick themselves. TJ had a decent game and whilst Jamie Robson didn’t get the numbers from you lot in the match ratings, he did have a solid performance once he got going. Poole and O’Connor are old-school defenders, and I think rather than get in behind, Pompey will be looking to use brute force to get through with Bishop and Pigott; it might be our type of battle at the back.
Lasse plays in the holding role after catching the eye, and it will be a really big afternoon for him. He did well against Exeter, but consistency is king, and if he’s to convince fans he’s the man to take Liam Bridcutt’s place, then he needs five or six games in a row at the same level. Tomorrow will test him, especially against a flat 4-4-2 for Pompey. We could overrun the midfield area and pull them out of shape, as we’ll have one over, but attacks down the flank are a real risk.
I’ve made a change in the midfield, Ted Bishop in for Tashan Oakley-Boothe. I think Tashan is a nice footballer, but he’s adjusting to the strength and pace of League One, Tomorrow, he could come up against the likes of Ryan Tunnicliffe, Marlon Pack and Sean Raggett; it’s a steep learning curve. I was surprised Ted didn’t start the last game, and I think Max did enough to get a second league start of the campaign for us. The choice, in my eyes, is between Bishop and Oakley-Boothe, and for experience, Ted’s got to be in there. He’s a player who, like the trio last week, could be a surprise package lurking within our squad.
I was tempted to make a change on the flanks, with Vernam in on the left and Scully on the right, but without solid news of Vernam’s knock, I think we might keep it the same. I expect our new face to be on the bench, certainly based on what I was told last week, but we may give him 30 minutes rather than the first 60. Besides, Haks did well last week (I think I’ve mentioned it a bit before), and despite his two misses, Scully got into good positions. A goalscorer will always miss chances; you begin worrying when they don’t get them.
As for Tom Hopper, he’s captain, led the line superbly and will have a real battle on his hands tomorrow. He’ll relish coming up against Sean Raggett, an ice-cold old-school defender if ever there was one.