Northstand Nostalgia: We must improve or crowds will dwindle

With the ball ricocheting like a pinball on the lively Fratton Park surface, we were never destined to see a great game against Leyton Orient.

Tuesday, 24th January 2017, 1:00 pm
Pompey boss Paul Cook salutes the fans after the Orient win but Northstand Critic was left underwhelmed. Picture: Joe Pepler

And both teams seemed intent on insuring this was going to be the case.

However, Orient’s goal was one of the finest strikes I have seen in a long time.

It brought me to my feet in applause, as the ball whistled past our undisputed mannequin challenge champion who has now conceded four times from the last five shots on target.

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During the second half, he almost conceded a comic equaliser of Laurel & Hardy proportions when – in tandem with the other half of his double-act, Christian Burgess – they got themselves into another fine mess!

Notwithstanding Orient’s quality goal, they were one of the poorest teams I have seen at Fratton Park for some time.

The fact we could only muster four shots on target against such meek opposition proves to me we are fortunate to find ourselves in such a lofty league position.

Orient’s defending was woeful, their marking at times non-existent, the ball was given away at will and when out of possession they afforded Pompey more space than Kirk and Spock required to voyage the Enterprise.

When the final whistle blew, to confirm our 2-1 win, it left me a little underwhelmed.

Am I expecting too much of this present crop of Pompey players?

Has my exposure to seven years of top-flight football lifted my expectancy to unrealistic levels?

Is it too much to expect a basic degree of ball control?

Should I be expecting more than four shots on target from a team that employs a centre-forward devoid of confidence?

Luton Town’s Danny Hylton recently gave our back four a torrid time with his aggression and intelligent movement – showing us exactly what we are missing.

But while I long for a better standard of football, I am not sure it’s the Premier League I am yearning for.

As some of its current greedy flock prepare to fly south (east) in search of another massive pay packet, those remaining will no doubt seek remuneration to prolong their own top-flight stay.

Wages will then continue to rise down through the pyramid and even League Two players will need to reassess their own worth and increase their relative swagger accordingly.

Their ability will not rise, however, and my chief concern at home games remains the precarious position of my Bovril while the ball is in play.

Last week Chelsea announced the average age of their season ticket holder is 55.

How long can Pompey sustain their own magnificent support while churning out such dross?

We really must up our game, just to keep our present Pompey bums on seats.

Younger generations have many more alternatives for their Saturday afternoons than those of this old fogey and his cohorts!

• A regular contributor to the Football Mail’s letters page many moons ago, the Northstand Critic has got back in touch and now writes a column in the Sports Mail every Sunday.