Neil Allen looks back on Saturday’s defeat against Wycombe and assesses the main talking points.
Doyle delights on debut
There was no dream debut goal from Eoin Doyle, while the result also represented a losing start.
Yet the loanee recruit from Preston provided encouraging glimpses of what he can add to Pompey’s attacking play.
That was epitomised on the half-hour mark at Adams Park with a wonderful piece of skill from the 28-year-old.
Just past the halfway line, Doyle pushed the ball through the legs of the Chairboys’ Anthony Stewart.
The striker then sped past the central defender to retrieve the ball, before driving through on goal and firing a left-foot shot straight at keeper Jamal Blackman.
The moment highlighted the danger the Irishman can pose, outside the penalty area as well as inside.
What’s more, he had created his very own goalscoring opportunity.
It was one fleeting piece of action over the game’s duration.
Nonetheless, it immediately made those present sit up and take notice of the former Chesterfield man’s ability.
Paul Cook believes his deadline-day recruit needs a ‘couple of games’ to come up to speed following a period out of Preston’s starting line-up.
Yet when a central forward can demonstrate the characteristics he showed when getting the better of Stewart, that can only be encouraging.
Drumming up support
Such was the noise from the nearby away end, Paul Cook had to conduct the majority of his post-match interviews inside.
Yet the sound emanating from that band of Pompey fans was not constructed upon negativity, instead they remained upbeat.
There was the banging of a drum, John Westwood’s bell and various songs, ensuring players and management couldn’t help but admire the support shown more than 30 minutes following the final whistle.
For Cook, it was a reaction which backed up his belief the Blues had served up an encouraging display, irrespective of the 1-0 defeat to Wycombe.
Pompey’s stuttering promotion push has attracted plenty of adverse reaction this season, particularly at home fixtures.
However, that Adams Park response was heartening to the Blues boss and those players who later returned to the pitch to warm down.
And the Fratton faithful will be hoping next time they will be cheering victory at the final whistle, rather than reflecting on defeat.
System switch here to stay
It was all change to the Pompey starting XI at Wycombe, with five alterations.
In addition, Cook restored his favoured 4-2-3-1 formation – a system which continues to be disliked by many.
The much-vaunted 4-4-2 had yielded victory over Leyton Orient followed by defeat to Exeter – both at Fratton Park in a bag of mixed results.
Cook, however, opted to revert to type following Eoin Doyle’s arrival from Preston for the remainder of the campaign.
The striker thrived in the 4-2-3-1 formation during their Chesterfield days together, establishing himself as a prolific scorer in the lower leagues.
It was inevitable he would be asked to continue that lone-striking role for the Blues during Cook’s reshuffle for Adams Park.
Pompey’s players are largely more comfortable lining up in that system, having operated within it since the manager’s May 2015 arrival.
Irrespective of the 1-0 defeat, Cook was afterwards delighted with the performance of his side in a match they didn’t deserve to lose.
Now expect to see the 4-2-3-1 rolled out for the remainder of the Blues’ promotion push.