News sports writer Jordan Cross provides us with three things we learnt from Pompey’s 2-1 win over Cambridge United.
Hollands provides extra steel
Sometimes players become better in their absence.
There’s a strong case for saying that’s been the story during Danny Hollands’ stint in the treatment room.
During the midfielder’s seven weeks on the sidelines with a broken leg, Pompey picked up a single league success.
Ben Close has been handed an extended run in that time, and has quite rightly picked up plaudits for his cool and efficient play.
Paul Cook’s side were turned over, however, by Barnet on the back of a physical and aerial battering.
Close struggled in that environment and, after nine games on the bounce, Hollands was restored against Cambridge United.
His role in Pompey winning the fight with Cambridge was clear to see.
Hollands’ understated and tireless work afforded Pompey the platform to create.
It was typically low fuss from the 30-year-old, but his presence gave his a side an extra steel which had been missing.
Forward thinking turns defensive
Pompey were in cruise control against Cambridge.
So a few Blues fans were left wondering how they went from a position of comfort to chewing the nails through a nervous finale.
Paul Cook attempted to shore things up by switching to three central defenders with the 87th-minute introduction of Matt Clarke.
The move handed the initiative to the U’s, however, and, when Gareth Evans gave away a cheap free-kick, Luke Berry was allowed to head home in the 90th minute.
But it wasn’t the change Cook would have normally chosen to make.
And the Blues boss was good enough to give the thinking behind the move at length after the game.
Cook explained his preference would’ve been an attacking change to look for more goals.
With Adam McGurk injured, along with Michael Smith and Gareth Evans already introduced, that left just the inexperienced Ben Tollitt as a front-thinking option.
So that made Cook’s move an unusually defensive one to see the game out.
‘Typically, we couldn’t do it,’ he admitted afterwards
‘But it was an important three points.’
And this was an occasion where simply finding a way to collect a maximum return was all that mattered.
Happy working environment
Tension was as high as it’s been this season going into Saturday’s game.
There’s not many times Fratton Park has been described as potentially ‘hostile’ for the home players ahead of a match.
But that was the scenario, as described by skipper Michael Doyle, after frustrations boiled over in some quarters at Barnet.
The need for a quick start was paramount against Cambridge – and thankfully we got that on and off the pitch.
The Fratton faithful knew their role was important on Saturday, and they reacted accordingly.
Endless chants of ‘blue army’ reverberated around the ground as they gave the players the positive – and not toxic – environment Cook called for.
True, there were quiet moments as the half wore on and Pompey lost some of their impetus.
But, crucially, no angst was aired.
The air of relief which arrived from Marc McNulty’s opener was palpable, however.
Likewise, Adam Webster’s second.
There’s now a minimum six occasions this season where that happy working environment has to be repeated.