Pompey 1 Luton 0: Talking points

Pompey boss Paul Cook, right, got the better of Luton counterpart Nathan Jones    Picture: Joe Pepler
Pompey boss Paul Cook, right, got the better of Luton counterpart Nathan Jones Picture: Joe Pepler
Pompey captain Brett Pitman Picture: Joe Pepler

Pompey sweat on Pitman and Chaplin injuries

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Jeff Marshman looks back on Pompey’s 1-0 victory over Luton yesterday and addresses the key talking points from the game...

Read his take on the Blues fans’ booing of broken-leg victim Cameron McGeehan here.

COOKIE CALLS IT RIGHT

One, two, three.

That’s not the limit of my counting ability but the number of strikers Pompey boss Paul Cook has elected to start with in recent times.

Yesterday, though, he was back to playing one lone front man in Michael Smith, and credit where credit is due – he got his tactics spot on.

With a sell-out Blues crowd willing the hosts on to a crucial three-point haul against promotion-rivals Luton, Cook reverted to his tried-and-tested 4-2-3-1 system.

It was a ballsy call and no doubt would have been slammed by many as unambitious had Pompey not won the game.

But the reality is the extra man in midfield allowed the Blues to control proceedings to the point that Hatters boss Nathan Jones used all three of his substitutes before the hour mark to combat the home side’s dominance.

Striker Danny Hylton was then injured shortly after as the gamble backfired to leave the visitors effectively playing with 10 men.

Rather than looking to protect a slender lead at the death, though, Cook elected to throw on an extra striker in Noel Hunt – and the Irishman proceeded to win a penalty to seal the game, only for fellow substitute Gary Roberts to fluff his lines. Thankfully, it mattered little.

But with Cook now pledging to pick teams and systems on a game-by-game basis, the hope is that versatile Pompey can continue to outsmart their opponents to promotion. sfg

DEFENSIVE DELIGHT

They’re not always the ones to get the headlines here at The News and certainly in the wider world of football, defenders’ achievements are often overlooked in favour of their attacking counterparts.

But whisper it quietly, Pompey now have the joint-best defensive record in League Two.

And bar one momentary lapse of concentration from the otherwise-impressive Christian Burgess yesterday, the Blues’ backline was faultless against a Luton side with their own promotion aspirations.

A settled back four is no doubt helping Pompey to establish themselves - alongside the Hatters - as the meanest defence in the division.

So full credit to Gareth Evans, Burgess, Matt Clarke and Enda Stevens not only for their display against Luton but also for three clean sheets in their past four games.

David Forde in goal has also had his detractors this season - myself included - but 11 clean sheets in 23 games and a commanding display, particularly coming for crosses, yesterday have swiftly eased concerns that Pompey must find a new No 1 in the January transfer window

Interviewing Burgess and Evans after the game, it’s clear the defenders are revelling in being part of a settled unit and taking great pride in their recent displays.

Long may they continue.