MK Dons 1 Pompey 2: What We Learnt
Pompey writer Jordan Cross discusses the talking points emerging from Saturday's late, late win at MK Dons.
All the pent-up frustration at a lack of playing time exploded in one lung-busting run of celebration.
Conor Chaplin’s been quietly and politely stewing at a lack of playing time under Kenny Jackett.
The striker had not seen a minute of league action in 2018, before being introduced at the interval at MK Dons.
Connor Ronan had not been effective being utilised behind Brett Pitman, so the aim was to get someone with more natural striking instincts closer to the Pompey captain.
The move paid late dividends with Chaplin on hand to snaffle away a loose ball in predatory fashion, with virtually the last kick of the game.
In fairness, the 20-year-old hadn’t offered a great deal of threat in his 45-minute outing as his side toiled as they searched for a way back into the match.
But with Chaplin you know he will always be on hand to feast on any scraps which come his way - and so it proved as he reacted quickest to Oli Hawkins bundling the ball into space in the box.
With the finish his first since November, Jackett stated he hoped the goal could be part of run of goals from the Academy product.
He was too diplomatic to say so, but Chaplin needs more playing time if that’s to be the case.
There was always a suspicion there were some pre-match selection shenanigans taking place with Kenny Jackett.
And so it proved as his indication Anton Walkes would be utilised in the middle of defence failed to come to fruition.
Jackett had suggested in a pre-match interview with Pompey’s YouTube channel it was the Spurs loanee who’d move into the middle for the suspended Christian Burgess.
That seemed a tad odd with the changes which would create minimal disruption being shifting Oli Hawkins to the back and reinstating Brett Pitman up front.
Jackett’s pre-match suggestion would have seen Walkes move from the right-back role where he impressed against Doncaster.
Additionally, Nathan Thompson would needed to have been taken from the midfield role where he’s added bite, and moved to the right side of Pompey’s back four.
That would leave Adam May and Ben Close in the middle, a partnership Jackett has expressed doubt over in terms of muscle and experience.
Those who felt that notion was a ruse to keep the home side guessing were proved correct after kick-off.
Hawkins had his moments when he looked slightly uncomfortable at the back, but again was largely effective.
The game’s outcome rendered the manner in which Jackett dealt with Burgess’ absence a success.
Back in Business
The question was how would recent goalkeeping events affect Luke McGee?
The answer came in emphatic fashion in the 22-year-old’s peformance against MK Dons.
McGee’s contribution was fundamental to his side picking up their first victory of 2018.
The former Spurs man made a string of important saves which ensured his side weren’t buried before Conor Chaplin’s late, late winner.
Two stops in two minutes before the interval included an excellent effort to keep out Scott Wooton’s header.
Then there were further impressive saves to deny Ed Upson and Ike Ugbo after the restart.
It’s been a testing period for McGee after he was briefly usurped by Stephen Henderson as first-choice keeper, before the Irishman picked up his season-ending injury.
Rather than crumple in the face of recent events, the keeper appears to be using it as fuel to raise his game.