Accrington 1 Pompey 0: What we learnt

Jordan Cross assesses what went wrong as Pompey's four-game winning run in the league came to an end at Accrington.

Monday, 19th September 2016, 2:03 pm
Updated Thursday, 7th June 2018, 6:06 pm
Gary Roberts had an off day with his deliveries at Accrington Pic: Joe Pepler

Missed delivery

Pompey spend a good portion of each week working on set-pieces.

So that makes the efforts served up at Accrington on Saturday immensely frustrating to say the least.

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The quality of deliveries from both free-kicks and corners was shoddy and wasteful.

The sight of the ball failing to beat the first man at the Crown Ground got the blood boiling.

Gary Roberts, so impressive from set-pieces usually, was guilty on a number of occasions.

And Kal Naismith was another who failed to put the ball in dangerous areas when he entered the fray in the second half.

Not only that, but the crossing in general play disappointed on too many occasions, too.

Carl Baker served up a couple of dangerous early deliveries.

But the standard slipped markedly as the game went on, despite players getting into good areas to provide service.

That meant either a lack of accuracy or too much air on the ball making it easy for keeper Aaron Chapman to claim.

It all made for a stressful watch with much, much better expected from Paul Cook’s men.

Wasted opportunities

Conor Chaplin’s time in Pompey’s starting XI will come.

But Paul Cook decided Accrington was not the occasion to throw in the homegrown talent for a start.

He instead turned to Michael Smith, who was recalled to Cook’s side in the league for the first time since Morecambe in the middle of last month.

It was a chance to impress the Geordie hitman failed to take.

Some sympathy has to be afforded the 24-year-old on the grounds of the supply he was given. As already documented, it was lacking at the Crown Ground.

But Cook spoke of the ‘opportunity’ afforded Smith and Kyle Bennett on their returns to the side, and they were chances which went begging.

Bennett came in for Milan Lalkovic after the Slovakian was withdrawn at the break against Wycombe.

The 26-year-old is adamant the speculation about his future hasn’t affected him, but the suspicion is that was the reason Cook took him out of the starting picture.

Despite being a divisive character for some who, from a distance, perceive him as cocky, the reality couldn’t be further from the truth with Bennett.

He is committed to the cause and has undoubted talent in his locker.

Not seeing that ability enough may be the reason for seeing some frustration aimed his way.

Saturday was one such occasion, although he was far from the only guilty party.

Identity crisis

If Pete from the Fratton End had his shout it’d be two strikers up front every week.

But Paul Cook opted to continue with his preferred 4-2-3-1 formation at Accrington on Saturday.

It started well, with his team exercising control over the ball and beginning in promising fashion against an opponent utilising the same approach.

The clash quickly developed into a stalemate, however, with little in the way of decent chances.

That was reflected in Pompey failing to register a shot on target across 90 minutes.

After setting out a desire to dominate possession, Cook has indicated he’s prepared to relent on that in return for more purposeful use of the ball.

Getting it forward quicker failed to work on this occasion, as Michael Smith lost his battle with Omar Beckles and Matt Pearson as he was swallowed up by Accrington’s central pairing.

Pompey’s move to two strikers and the introduction of Conor Chaplin created more problems, however, as they lost any semblance of control of the game.

Milan Lalkovic and Kal Naismith followed in the seven minutes after Chaplin’s 63rd-minute arrival after a switch to what was, ostensibly, a diamond.

The effect, however, was to see a lacklustre performance deteriorate further as Pompey lost their identity.