Pompey 1 Scunthorpe 1: What We Learnt
Pompey writer, Jordan Cross, looks back at Saturday's 1-1 draw and discusses the game's big talking points.
Two training sessions was all Kenny Jackett had to execute the biggest selection gamble of his Pompey managerial career.
So credit has to go to both manager and players for embracing the change to wing-backs employed against Scunthorpe.
It was a move which resulted in a first-half display which caught the in-form promotion chasers by surprise.
Pompey were full of attacking ideas and inventiveness which should have seen them leading by more than one goal at the break.
It was always going to be a challenge to maintain that momentum for 90 minutes, against a side who’d lost one of the previous 13 league outings.
And so it proved after a reshuffle from Graham Alexander at the break, which allowed the visitors to gain a foothold in proceedings.
Alexander was adamant Pompey changed to a 3-4-1-2 formation to nullify the threat his side offered.
Joe Gallen countered afterwards it was about getting the best out of the players Pompey had a their disposal.
With Kal Naismith deemed fit to start after an outing off the bench against Chelsea under-21, it got the Scot’s creative quality into the side’s framework.
Significantly, Connor Ronan was afforded freedom to carve open the visitors with his clever passing and delivery.
It was a brave move from Jackett which has to be deemed a success.
In Ronan Blues Trust
The ovation he was afforded after his withdrawl with 19 minutes left spoke volumes.
Connor Ronan had just delivered an eye-catching Pompey league debut - which emphatically answered many questions asked about the slightly-built teenager.
There had been doubts raised over whether the attacking midfielder could handle the physicality of League One, with Scunthorpe the perfect side to find out one way or the other.
The Iron midfield pairing of Neal Bishop and Funso Ojo aren’t the type to taken any prisoners, yet Ronan caused the visitors all kinds of problems.
Ronan’s range of passing, efficient use of the ball, tight turning and trickery made him the most effective player on the pitch for much of the game.
Yes, his impact waned as the afternoon wore on leading to his withdrawl, but Pompey fans can now see why Jackett clearly thinks so much of him.
With Ben Close and Nathan Thompson acting as the Republic of Ireland under-21 man’s ‘insurance’ policy, they offered a decent balance of silk and steel.
It was getting the best out of Ronan which was the major factor in Pompey switching to wing-backs.
That fact shows how much trust Jackett is placing in the little midfield schemer.
It was a team-sheet which left the assembled press scratching their heads.
There’s little doubt Scunthorpe boss Graham Alexander was doing the same, as he tried to fathom how Pompey would line up an hour before kick-off on Saturday.
It was undoubtedly Nathan Thompson’s shift into a holding-midfield position which represented the most surprising element of Kenny Jackett’s move to a wing-back formation.
It was a decision which paid off handsomely, as the right-back turned in a combative and dominant performance.
Thompson provided the muscle which dovetailed with Ben Close’s passing ability to provide a useful partnership anchoring Pompey’s midfield.
Judging by the frenzied debate both at Fratton Park and on social media before the game, there were many who doubted the 27-year-old would be utilised centrally.
It’s a position the former Swindon man is familiar with, however, playing there at times for the Robins in the past.
Thompson also played in the middle of the park in his formative footballing days before switching to a full-back role.
We now wait to see whether he’ll find himself there again moving forward.