Slow start sets the tone

Pompey conceded early on against Tranmere. Picture: Joe Pepler
Pompey conceded early on against Tranmere. Picture: Joe Pepler

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There are usually a few subtle little clues that a football match is about to start.

As a professional player, you might be able to at least twig that you are needed to be ready by the time you’ve got off the coach, you’ve changed into your kit or by the time you’ve put your boots on.

In fairness, you can probably do all of those things on auto-pilot at times.

After all, how hard do you really need to concentrate to tie your own laces?

So perhaps it takes a few more mental pointers.

A warm-up maybe, or the bit when you wander out of the tunnel, or when you walk along the line and shake hands with the opposition?

Maybe the key mental trigger is that moment when the referee blows the whistle and someone kicks the ball for the first time to show that the match has actually started?

Surely, somewhere in among all of those moments, there is that realisation that it’s time to go to work and for everyone to switch on?

Not, it seems, for Pompey on these miserable away days.

Nope – they tend to get an inkling that the game has started when they are picking the ball out of their own net.

Twice in the past two away fixtures in League Two, Pompey have been seemingly caught by surprise that the game had kicked off.

Off the pace – both physically and mentally – it has been a case of gifting the opposition a one-goal start.

Now if Pompey were a free-scoring side on their travels, it wouldn’t be quite so much of a sin.

As we all know, they aren’t.

But less than 80 seconds were on the clock when Tranmere converted the second corner of the game.

With just three goals in nine games prior to this one, there weren’t too many optimistic predictions of turning around that early deficit, despite an encouraging response that eventually fashioned an equaliser.

Preparations over the course of a whole week are all about what happens in those precious 90 minutes on a Saturday.

But all of that work on tactics, formations, set-pieces and everything else that goes into a week’s work on the training pitch may as well be ripped up when you continue to gift the initiative to your opponents with such ease.

It was ragged. Pompey were on the back foot, people were not doing their jobs or setting the right standards.

Do the players really need to be reminded to concentrate and be ready to play when the referee blows his whistle to start the game?

On this evidence, they do.