Awford mulls over retaining system

Lee Holmes. Picture: Joe Pepler
Lee Holmes. Picture: Joe Pepler
Pompey forward Kal Naismith Picture: Joe Pepler

Naismith: Pompey have no need to panic

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Andy Awford is to weigh up a permanent return to the 4-2-3-1 system after finally ending Pompey’s string of away defeats.

For Saturday’s trip to Cheltenham, the Blues boss restored the formation which inspired his side to safety last season.

He also made four changes with Ben Chorley, Matt Fish, Craig Westcarr and Miles Storey all dropped.

The result was a 1-1 draw – halting a run of five successive losses on their travels.

Nigel Atangana’s first Pompey goal capped a dominant second-half showing and cancelled out Omari Sterling-James’ opener.

At Fratton Park, 4-4-2 has proven fruitful and next up are AFC Wimbledon on Boxing Day.

And in the approach Awford will contemplate whether 4-2-3-1 is the way forward.

He said: ‘On Saturday, I had to make sure we started properly and correctly, which we did.

‘We didn’t give them any goals at the start of the game.

‘Danny Hollands and Marcus Bean didn’t go too far to start off with, it was a case of let’s make sure we don’t concede, especially on your travels. We have been caught enough early in games so we have addressed that.

‘It is easy to say go for it, be gung-ho, let’s get on the front foot and after them. Then you end up bombing loads of people forward and get caught and look silly.

‘So we were conscious of that and just felt the longer it went, we could frustrate them and their crowd would get edgy.

‘Our defence were as solid as a rock but I also think there was better protection in front of them and there was that solid base.

‘That is how we played last year when I took over.

‘The 4-2-3-1 formation allowed us to be more solid, we wanted an extra player in the middle of the park which was Nigel (Atangana) to play behind Ryan Taylor, while we gave Jed Wallace and Lee Holmes the licence to come infield and pop up which they did.

‘I think we were tighter as a unit, it’s not down to individuals, that was more of a unit, we were tighter as a shape and looked more of a solid base.

‘I don’t know if we will now stay with that system.

‘We played like that at home last year with Wes Fogden or Jed Wallace behind Ryan Taylor with two wide and giving them a bit of a free rein. We’ll have a look at that.

‘At home on the main, though, we have done okay with 4-4-2 and picked up a lot of points that way, so it is something for me to consider for home matches.

‘Me, Gary (Waddock) and Paul (Hardyman) will have a chat today, watch Wimbledon videos and get them prepared again.’

Pompey are now in 14th spot as they head into the festive programme with fixtures against AFC Wimbledon and Luton. Awford added: ‘It took a good save from Paul Jones and a wonderful finish from Nigel to get us the point.

‘It’s a start. I am not going to go overboard with a point, of course I am not. I am not going to go overboard with that performance – we have got to be more consistent.

‘But that performance gives us the base to move into Christmas.’