Pompey coach sees Checkatrade worth '“ but wants change
An unwanted Fratton Park record formed the backdrop to progress towards Wembley.
Yet while Joe Gallen has called for the Checkatrade Trophy format to be revamped, he appreciates the importance of its presence in Pompey’s season.
A crowd of 1,780 attended Pompey’s comfortable 2-0 victory against Northampton on Saturday, with 128 of those being members of the Cobblers faithful.
That represented the lowest recorded attendance for a competitive fixture at Fratton Park on a Saturday, eclipsing 4,688 against Middlesbrough in a December 1972 goalless draw.
Regardless, the Blues have reached the last 16 of the beleaguered competition which has proven unpopular with supporters across the country.
Since last month’s win at Charlton in the final group game, Kenny Jackett’s side have embarked on a run of six wins from seven fixtures.
And Gallen recognises how the Checkatrade Trophy has aided the Blues’ league performances.
He said: ‘You noticed the small crowd on Saturday, especially being at Fratton Park.
‘Here is probably one of the best atmospheres in the country on a Saturday afternoon for a home game, but against Northampton it felt like an FA Youth Cup game.
‘It’s difficult to ask fans to put their hands in their pockets all the time for games. The league set the rules and if this competition was a knock-out format there might be a bit more interest.
‘Maybe there’s just too many games, genuinely people would like a knock-out from the beginning.
‘You have the League Cup and FA Cup and three definite Checkatrade Games and that’s a lot for the players, so you need a big squad – but a big squad needs big money and maybe some teams haven’t got that.
‘My personal feelings are the tournament is fine, let’s just go back to knock-out straight away.
‘Having said that, on the flip side, it gets players first-team games and we don’t really have a reserve team here.
‘When we played Charlton it got us out of a bad run and we ended up then winning a couple of league games and are still in that scenario, apart from losing to Peterborough.
‘At the Valley we needed a win – and got it. I think the Checkatrade Trophy has been good us.
‘While I understand the turnstiles haven’t been very lively in terms of bringing people through, it has still been good to us in terms of getting confidence back and a winning run in the league.’
Gareth Evans headed Pompey into a 41st-minute lead through his first goal of the season, while Stuart O’Keefe doubled the hosts’ advantage on 58 minutes.
Both moments were created through quality moves and left Gallen purring.
He added: ‘Their biggest threat would have been set-pieces, without a doubt, and our first goal came from a break off their corner.
‘We were pleased with that goal because we did think off the back of their set-pieces we would be able to break and counter and show our athleticism.
‘It ended up being a really good cross from Conor and a very good header from Gareth.’