How Pompey are shooting themselves in the foot

You don't score if you don't shoot.

Wednesday, 7th December 2016, 5:00 pm
Updated Thursday, 7th June 2018, 6:09 pm
Gary Roberts is Pompey's top scorer. Picture: Joe Pepler

Or, put that another way, you won’t win the lottery if you don’t buy a ticket.

That’s how the old striking adage so beloved by legendary front man and Pompey favourite Teddy Sheringham goes.

But the numbers are saying Pompey aren’t doing anywhere near enough scoring from their shots – and they’re buying a lot of lottery tickets.

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The focus may have been on defensive frailties after the latest Blues disappointment against Stevenage last time out.

But the stats show it’s at the other end of the pitch greater concern currently lies for Paul Cook’s side.

For all the focus on defensive travails and frailties, just Luton (18) have let in fewer than the 20 league goals conceded by the Blues.

A closer looker at the chances being created – and passed up – indicates wastefulness has been a bigger problem when it comes to dropped points.

Across 19 League Two fixtures this term, Pompey have carved out 276 shots on goal to their opponents’ 140.

So Cook’s side have delivered virtually double the amount of shots on goal as their rivals – an average of 14.5 per game to 7.3.

And when you break it down, it becomes even more revealing.

In those 19 games, Pompey have created more chances than their opponents on all but two occasions.

Just the backs-to-the-wall victory at Cambridge after being reduced to 10 men and the disappointing defeat at Accrington went against the grain.

On the other occasions the margins have been as wide as 23 shots to two (Carlisle) and 25 shots to six (Morecambe) in games Pompey drew and lost respectively.

In other fixtures where the Blues have lost, the shot comparison has read 15 to six (Doncaster), 17 versus five (Notts County) and 15 to nine (Stevenage).

It was an even 11-11 in a weak effort at Blackpool.

Likewise, draws at Plymouth (14 shots to eight), Crewe (11 to nine) and Cheltenham (18 to eight) were all in Pompey’s favour.

They really are quite breathtaking figures.

The context to that is Pompey have seen a total of 26 points dropped so far this campaign.

Those games have been either draws or defeats by the odd goal, with the exception of Blackpool and the Morecambe loss with a season’s high 25 shots.

There has not been an occasion where supporters have been left in awe of the opposition their team have faced.

There hasn’t been the need to doff a cap to a superior foe.

Pompey’s shortcomings have been their downfall not their opponents. And profligacy has been chief in that.

The debate is how is that now remedied? Like the fan who accosted Cook after the Stevenage defeat, there is a certainty playing 4-4-2 will make the difference.

But, just as the figures are a damning indictment of Pompey’s finishing, they support the claim 4-2-3-1 is an attacking formation. It’s certainly creating the chances.

Goals are being shared around with Gary Roberts (seven) and Carl Baker (six) leading the way.

Of the out-and-out strikers, Michael Smith has six, Conor Chaplin five, Curtis Main five and the lightly-used Noel Hunt a single finish.

Put another way, Pompey have two names in the top 35 league goalscorers in the division – neither of them are strikers. Again, a breathtaking statistic.

The quartet can point to being handed varying chances to impress in terms of a solid run of games but there needs to be greater cutting edge.

With January on the horizon, there will be a time to take stock on a squad which has yet to show clear improvement from last term.

And an unimproved goal return from last season will be an obvious focus.