Not good enough… nerves grow over Thompson replacement – the verdict from Portsmouth's defeat at Oxford
Mark McMahon looks back on Saturday’s defeat to Oxford United and assesses the main talking points...
Simply not good enough
Simply put, Pompey’s performance against Oxford wasn’t good enough.
And if my opinion counts for little, ask the 1,803 travelling Blues fans who made the short trip up the A34.
Alternatively, if you don’t have time to do that – check out Neil Allen’s match ratings.
Threes, fours and fives were recorded at the Kassam Stadium – verdicts you’d expect on tripadvisor for a cheap hotel in Skegness, not the display of a team gunning for the title.
In his post-match interview with The News, manager Kenny Jackett believed the performance was not as ‘flat’ as the one seven days previous against Blackpool, instead pinpointing a lack of cutting edge in attacking areas.
But, in honesty, few if any emerged from Pompey’s second successive defeat with any credit.
Bar substitute Brett Pitman’s overhead kick to halve the U’s’ two-goal advantage, there was a startling lack of quality on display.
Here’s hoping it was a rare off day from the table-toppers.
Yes, amongst the boom and gloom that manifested following the loss, Pompey, don’t forget, are still setting the pace at the summit of League One.
But with the defeat coming just seven days after that other disappointing result at the hands to Blackpool – and let’s not brush aside the surprise December losses to Charlton and Gillingham – the Blues run the risk of days likes these becoming more seldom.
And nobody wants that.
Fire-power tinkering back-fired
Jackett sprang a surprise by naming Jamal Lowe up front and bringing David Wheeler in to occupy the right flank for his maiden league start.
It was the latest enforced change as the Blues learn to adapt without the injured Oli Hawkins’ presence at the top end of the pitch.
But it was a tinkering of his fire-power that ultimately back-fired.
Lowe was unable to impact on the game as we all know he can, with the U’s defence shackling him well.
Meanwhile, Wheeler failed to grasp his big opportunity and was understandably substituted on the hour mark as the manager attempted to liven things up in attack.
Subs Pitman and Louis Dennis combined well to get Pompey back into the game, with the former spectacularly firing home with a moment of magic.
But the expected Blues onslaught on Simon Eastwood’s goal never materialised, with the forwards on display failing to fire.
Hawkins’ return from a calf injury can’t come quick enough, with that in mind.
But with his continued absence accompanied by Andre Green’s return to Aston Villa and Joe Mason sent back to Wolves, the attacking options suddenly at Jackett’s disposal now look limited.
This will need to be addressed between now and the end of the January transfer window.
Growing nervousness over Thompson void
Two hundred and twenty six miles north of the Kassam Stadium, Millwall took on Middlesbrough in the Championship on Saturday.
Why does that matter, I hear you ask?
Well, it just so happens that Ben Thompson made his first Lions league start since April 22, 2017, in the 1-1 draw.
And that more or less rules out the popular former loanee returning to Fratton Park.
That will represent a major blow to the Blues, who were hoping for a potential Thompson turnaround.
And with Andy Cannon – the latest player to audition for the role following Gareth Evans’ switch to midfield against Blackpool – unable to stamp his authority against Oxford, the nervousness that’s already there over a key position in the Blues machine will continue to grow.