Shot-shy Portsmouth dropping points
It’s often said that if you don’t concede in a game of football, you won’t lose.
Valid point, but then again, if you don’t score you won’t win either.
Bit of catch-22 situation then really, and one Portsmouth have found themselves facing in recent months. A very dependable defence, but a strikeforce that can lack creativity and a real cutting edge to finish teams off.
It’s a firm belief of mine that the Blues have one of the best rearguards in the Championship, certainly two of the finest centre-backs anyway. Any Blues fan will tell you how well Jason Pearce has done since his return to the club in the summer, brave, a born leader and willing to throw his body on the line at any time. If there was ever a player to make football look like a war, Pearce is that man, jumping on bombs and taking bullets like he’s in Platoon.
And as for Ricardo Rocha, well, the ex-Spurs defender just oozes class. His reading of the game is exemplary, and when former manager Steve Cotterill left him out of the team for large parts last season, it had supporters tearing their hair out with confusion. Apart from the ones with no hair, but they would have done.
Alongside Greg Halford and the two left-backs that have played this season, Tal Ben Haim and recently loaned in Joe Mattock, defensively Pompey have done a very sound job, and have conceded the same amount of goals as league leaders and fiercest rivals Southampton, despite sitting 16 places behind them in the table.
However it’s at the other end where the difference lies. Whereas Saints have blasted 47 goals, Michael Appleton’s side only have 24. And top scorer Rickie Lambert’s 15 Championship goals are more than Blues forwards Dave Kitson, Luke Varney, Erik Huseklepp, Benjani, Kanu and Marko Futacs put together.
And that is the reason why Portsmouth aren’t in play-off contention, their lack of firepower has just about got the better of their solid defence. The fine margin is obvious in the results from the season so far. A staggering seven of Pompey’s nine defeats have been decided by just one goal, with five of them ending 1-0. Whereas four of the Blues’ seven wins were shaded by a single strike too, showing you exactly how different things could have been with a more potent attack.
Most of the problem lies with actually creating the chances. It’s been up to Kitson to lead the line on his own for the best-part of the campaign so far, and I can’t actually remember him having more than one clear cut chance in the past month or so, which tells you getting the ball into him in the box isn’t working. Whether that’s his fault or those trying to assist him, something isn’t right.
I agree with Appleton’s philosophy that you don’t necessarily need to play two up-front to score lots of goals. It’s about the mentality of the team, wanting to get in the box, and also how you play to make your opportunities. But it’s hard to argue with the fact that in the three home games Pompey have played 4-4-2 this season, they found the net eight times, whilst only conceding once.
Away from home, the tried and tested 4-2-3-1 would be my preferred system, but at Fratton Park, a strike partnership should be deployed.
After all, it’s all well and good being hard to beat and playing a better kind of football. But goals do win games.