Coventry 3 Pompey 2: Three things we learned
Pompey exited the newly-rebranded EFL Cup in the first round last night at Coventry.
And while Paul Cook ringing the changes and the Blues being knocked out by near full-strength League One opponents were hardly shocks, there was plenty to talk about following the Ricoh Arena clash.
Firstly, the debutants.
Five different men were handed Blues bows in the midlands as Cook used the competition as a chance to look at his squad.
Teenage goalkeeper Alex Bass was joined by new signings Tom Davies, Adam Buxton, Amine Linganzi and Curtis Main in a line-up heralding 11 changes from Saturday’s 1-1 draw against Carlisle.
Bass showed composure beyond his years for the most part in between the sticks claiming a number of crosses and punching corners to good effect although will feel he may have done better with the Sky Blues’ winner.
Davies was solid and not afraid to put his body on the line or his foot through the ball to clear the danger - he is more Paul Robinson than Adam Webster on first glance, not that that is in any way a bad thing at this level.
Buxton got forward well and offered something down the flanks, while being strong in the tackle at the other end. Was given a tricky time by pacy opposing wingers but generally stood up to the task well and is now putting pressure on Drew Talbot at right-back.
Linganzi was the visitors’ best player last night, catching the eye with a composed display in front of the back four. Will be confident of seeing his one-month deal extended in a move that likely spells the end of any chance of Danny Hollands returning to the club.
Main was lively up top and slotted home his penalty emphatically. Also showed a no-nonsense side when wrestling the ball off team-mate Kyle Bennett for the spot-kick.
Strength in depth was another talking point.
The fact League Two Pompey were able to change their entire line-up and take a top League One side making just three changes to extra-time tells you all you need to know about the Blues’ squad strength.
The flip side is that Cook now has something of a selection headache heading into Saturday’s game with Crewe.
Logic would suggest that the Blues boss continues with the side who were held by Carlisle - in the name of continuity.
But certain players certainly put their hands up with good performances last night.
Buxton has put the pressure on Talbot with Linganzi and Bennett impressing in midfield to keep Danny Rose and Milan Lalkovic on their toes respectively.
Davies also looked assured at centre-half with Jack Whatmough – working his way back into the Pompey starting line-up – mindful of his presence.
Perhaps the biggest selection issue for Blues fans, though, is up front.
Main was a threat as a lone striker and linked well with others after Michael Smith had an off day against Carlisle in the same role.
Then there is the small matter of fans’ favourite and instictive finisher Conor Chaplin and veteran front man Noel Hunt who both have goals in them.
Whoever he picks, Cook certainly has to disappoint some very good players.
Finally, out-of-favour Kal Naismith.
The Scottish winger is not a left-back and anyone in attendance at the Ricoh Arena last night could see that for themselves.
The amount of times he was caught out of position was frightening.
But on the ball and in forward areas there is no doubt the 24-year-old has talent.
His late equaliser from a free-kick 25 yards out was absolutely sensational.
I’d go as far as to say it was the best I have ever witnessed at a game.
Yet still he is unwanted.
It’s a shame the Blues have not been able to get the best out of him and there have been flashes of real class.
But with others ahead of him in the pecking order and two years left on his contract it may be best for all parties that he moves on sooner rather than later.