ANDY AWFORD has admitted he’s at a loss to explain Pompey’s miserable away form.
But the Blues boss has vowed to find the answers to the terrible run on the road which is wrecking his team’s campaign.
And help could be at hand, after the loss at Tranmere on Saturday made it just six points from 10 League Two away games this season – and five away defeats on the trot.
The wait for a maximum haul stretches back to the success at Oxford back in August.
Now sports psychologist, Iain Greenlees, has provided his thoughts on the matter and how to begin putting it right.
Greenlees is a reader in sports psychology at the University of Chichester, and has seen his research on football published, as well as working in golf and swimming.
The good news for Pompey is Awford’s admission there is a ‘psychological barrier’ on the road is a positive step.
Dealing with a negative ‘expectancy effect’ and looking at placing control in the players’ grasp is also key for the Blues.
Greenlees said: ‘There’s that huge expectancy effect and they can label themselves a team who can’t play away from home.
‘Therefore, they remember the times they haven’t performed away from home.
‘They notice things and may be losing concentration because it’s on their mind.
‘If something goes wrong it’s “oh, here we go again”, as opposed to focusing on how to respond to going a goal behind.
‘The one basic intervention is to look at the routine element and effects of travel.
‘Some teams will meet at a hotel before a home game to have a more regimented and familiar routine.
‘That then makes the away game routine more familiar.
‘There might be discussions as a team about some of the things which may throw them off their game.
‘You can discuss ‘what if’ scenarios and have a strategy in place if the dressing rooms are terrible, for example.
‘You can have plans to counteract that and not make it so unusual to them.
‘The key thing is the players feel it’s something they can control.
‘There are things to do to reduce the away disadvantage and show their home form away from home.
‘You can get into the mindset that it always happens to us no matter what we do – we don’t play well away from home. That’s the danger.
‘If you have someone as progressive as Andy Awford the chances are he’ll be discussing ways to address it.’
Awford explained in The News last week he has tried both avoiding and tackling the away form head on with his players. Greenlees believes the latter is the best approach.
He added: ‘If they are facing up to it and putting things in place it’s a good starting point. There’s a recognition they can do something about it.
‘They are saying there is a psychological barrier and we don’t perform well away from home.
‘If they are saying it’s a permanent state of affairs, that’s problematic.
‘There is no reason why it needs to be a permanent state of affairs, because you are dealing with trying to change expectancies.
‘You can change the behaviours which might occur when you go a goal behind after 80 seconds.
‘That can lead the team as a whole or a few players to drop their heads and not perform to their usual level.
‘However, if there is a plan in place for if they do go behind, it gives a balance.
‘Then, if negative events do occur, you can look at how you currently respond and how that can change.
‘It may be that communication drops or individuals are being targeted for going missing in away games.
‘That could serve to continue the away disadvantage.
‘But if they have the mindset that we will find a solution to this, that’s a good sign.’