Mark McMahon looks back on what we learnt from Pompey’s trip to Crewe...
Paul Cook needs to find a way of getting the best out of Michael Smith.
The striker, who made his loan move from Swindon permanent over the summer, showed potential at the tail end of last season, and his absence for the play-off semi-final defeat against Plymouth has been mooted as one of a number of contributory factors in last term’s failed promotion bid.
But Blues fans are still waiting for that lift-off moment which will make him a terrace favourite.
There was no sign of it coming at Gresty Road as Smith was substituted in the second half – and many are starting to wonder whether it ever will.
Two league games in and fans are already looking for a change of personnel up front.
That could ruin his already-fragile confidence even more, so the sooner the front man can find his rhythm the better for all concerned.
Expect more of these days
Not every game in this division is a banker.
Yes, it’s Pompey – the side with the supposed biggest budget in the division, a superior fan base than all others, and a club more determined than most to break the stranglehold English football’s fourth tier has on them.
But we all know there’s no devine right of passage.
Opposition teams will raise their game for a clash with Cook’s side, while there will be days when it simply won’t click for the men with the weight of the star & crescent in their chest.
Both those instances happened on Saturday.
After an impressive start for the Blues, Crewe eventually rose to the occasion, while the visitors just couldn’t get into their flow.
There will be more days like these over the course of the season.
And as Michael Doyle said in today’s News, draws like Saturday’s should be viewed as a point gained rather than two dropped.
Strength and depth
Pompey’s squad depth is going to be tested to the limit this term – so it’s just as well there is quality in the ranks to step up.
Kal Naismith proved he’s more than capable of filling in at left-back, after Enda Stevens’ unavailability with a groin strain on Saturday.
No-one is saying the forward should all of a sudden be considered a viable alternative to the Irishman, but there is enough there to suggest he’s an option at this level.
And with doubts surrounding Jack Whatmough’s fitness after he hobbled off with an injury, it’s good to know Cook has quality alternatives to fill the void, with Adam Barton, Tom Davies and Matt Clarke – when back to full fitness – capable of stepping up.
Such options are available all over pitch – showed when Kyle Bennett and Curtis Main swapped places with Milan Lalkovic and Smith in the pitch on Saturday.
That left Conor Chaplin and Noel Hunt unable to get a game, with Whatmough’s injury forcing Cook’s hand with his remaining substitution.
That double attacking move didn’t have the desired affect as the Blues failed to break the deadlock at Gresty Road.
But their impact was noticeable, giving the manager plenty to ponder for the game with Morecambe tomorrow night.