Carl Baker: From the Dressing Room

Christian Burgess heads the decisive goal at Leyton Orient from my left-wing corner. Picture: Joe Pepler
Christian Burgess heads the decisive goal at Leyton Orient from my left-wing corner. Picture: Joe Pepler
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Carl Baker gives us an exclusive insight into life at Pompey in his new column in the Sports Mail...

In my eyes, set-pieces are just as important as team formations and other aspects of the game.

That is why I’m delighted to finally get my chance to contribute from corners and free-kicks.

Whoever I’ve played for I’ve been involved in dead-balls situations but when you move clubs you need to bide your time a little before getting involved.

You don’t want to step on anyone’s toes.

Gary Roberts, pictured right, has shown really good set-piece delivery and generally taken them from both sides.

Then a few weeks ago I mentioned to Leam Richardson I wanted to take some in training and we worked on a few different things.

Thankfully he put me on them and it was fantastic to see Christian Burgess get on the end of a delivery at Leyton Orient last weekend.

Being right-footed, I prefer taking left-sided corners so I can get my foot around the ball and whip it in. It feels a lot more comfortable.

I can also generate a bit more pace, whereas the other side the same type of kick would probably go out of play.

As a right-footer on right corners, it is more of a laces ping, which is a straight ball rather than whipping it in, and less dangerous.

Obviously Gary on the right side means he can wrap his left foot round, put a bit of inswing on the ball and make it difficult to defend.

At most clubs I’ve been at they swap the players, mixing it up can confuse the opposition, you don’t want to be too predictable.

Gary and myself have now been the corner partnership during the past few games and hopefully can continue to cause opponents problems.

When I signed this summer, the gaffer told me all about the statistics from the previous season and that the team didn’t score enough from set-pieces.

You see so many fixtures in League Two won at dead-ball situations and when looking at the results on a Saturday evening you know which sides have scored from set-pieces.

Some are better than others and watching the highlights demonstrates more often than not it is the big, strong, physical teams taking advantage of them to win by fine margins.

Quite a lot of work goes into set-plays ahead of a match, although never on a daily basis.

Normally you spend 30 minutes on set-pieces before each match, defending and attacking.

That would be a Monday before a Tuesday game or a Friday before a Saturday match.

Here we try different things, with the players coming up with alternative runs and different angles.

I know Pompey’s record has not been great on set-pieces but it is something we are definitely continuing to work on.

Mind you, the delivery can be perfect every time but if the defender doesn’t want to get on the end of it then nothing will come of it, unfortunately.

Burgess has already chipped in and players like Tom Davies and Matt Clarke are centre-backs who enjoying heading the ball.

So hopefully they can make a bit more of a difference to us in those promising areas.

• Living the professional’s dream – and being a footballer

It’s like having two different lives at present. It’s crazy!

On days off and after Saturday matches, I go back to Solihull where I have a nice big house with loads of space and the wife, kids and dogs around.

For the rest of the week I’m in a three-storey house two minutes from the training ground and sharing a kitchen with professional people!

Still, it’s nice to meet people in Portsmouth, getting away from the lads for a few hours after training.

It makes me feel young, like a student.

I have never lived with professionals before, it’s great to try something new and I got lucky to be fair.

The people in the house are great.

There are age restrictions and they all have to be professionals and so far it has worked out quite well.

At first I was a little bit concerned my housemates would play music the night before a game but they know I play for Pompey and make sure they’re quiet.

I was originally going to find a place with Michael Doyle to live but he is now in the club house with a couple of the other lads.

We spend so much time with each other in training and then sharing lifts back to the midlands that it’s nice to have a bit of time to ourselves now and then.

But on days off we will shoot off home, taking it in turns to drive the two-hour trip.

Michael lives 20 minutes from me and it’s great to get the company on those distances.

For me, it’s about getting the balance right – and it seems to be working fine.