Assistant lifts lid on Pompey's whirlwind wing-back switch

Pompey have been saluted for embracing their whirlwind switch to wing-backs.

Monday, 15th January 2018, 6:00 am
Connor Ronan's skillset helped inspire a switch in Pompey formation. Picture: Joe Pepler

And Blues assistant boss Joe Gallen has lifted the lid on the reasons behind the shift to a 3-4-1-2 formation which delivered a 1-1 draw with promotion-chasing Scunthorpe on Saturday.

Kenny Jackett engineered a switch in his system following last Tuesday’s disappointing Checkatrade Trophy exit to Chelsea under-21s.

Pompey’s previous dalliance with wing-backs this term resulted in defeat to Rotherham last September.

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Kal Naismith impressed up front alongside Brett Pitman. Picture: Joe Pepler

But this time around it delivered a return against one of the division’s in-form outfits.

Gallen said: ‘Thursday was when we started working on it.

‘There were a lot of changes there, so to put in a performance like that with a lot of changes was good. The manager deserves a lot of credit.

‘We were disappointed to lose on Tuesday so to change things with the personnel and formation and perform like we did was pleasing.

Kal Naismith impressed up front alongside Brett Pitman. Picture: Joe Pepler

‘We’re playing Scunthorpe who have a good squad and are taking players weekly at the moment.

‘If you look at their bench and players who are not on their bench, for us to put in a performance like we did was pretty pleasing. It should give us a lot of confidence for the future.

‘There were a lot of decisions to be made in a certain amount of time. We’ve done it before and it can look like this lot don’t know who each other are at times! It didn’t look like that.

‘The first half was an excellent footballing performance.

‘It wasn’t going to be like that for 90 minutes, so to battle on and get a draw against a good side was pleasing.’

Gallen revealed getting the best out of new-boy Connor Ronan was a significant factor in the change.

With injuries in the middle of the park, Jackett utilised Nathan Thompson as a holding midfielder and was rewarded with an impressive showing there from the right-back.

Gallen said: ‘Connor’s football and brain is important but he needs players around who aren’t like that.

‘You can’t have 11 Connors on the pitch. You have to balance it off with people who can help his football flow.

‘So Nathan Thompson behind is perfect to let him roam a bit and gamble going forward.

‘If things don’t quite come off you have that insurance there.

‘I know Nathan played there for Swindon and we’ve seen him play there.

‘It wasn’t a surprise to us he went in there and played very well.

‘Stuart O’Keefe, Danny Rose and Gareth Evans aren’t there so Nathan offered age, experience, strength and power.

‘Kal Naismith was a factor, too. He wasn’t fit to start on Tuesday but was against Scunthorpe.

‘He played with a good attitude and ran and ran. He and Brett Pitman looked a good pairing up front.’