Jekyll & Hyde Pompey count cost of inconsistency

113462_LEEDS_PFC_01/10/11''Leeds goal. ''Leeds United V Portsmouth FC from Elland Road, Leeds. . ''Picture: Allan Hutchings (113462-334)
113462_LEEDS_PFC_01/10/11''Leeds goal. ''Leeds United V Portsmouth FC from Elland Road, Leeds. . ''Picture: Allan Hutchings (113462-334)
Jamal Lowe. Picture: Joe Pepler

Why eyes are on Scunthorpe in Pompey bid to make play-offs

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The frayed nerves were tangible among the Elland Road crowd.

The atmosphere was muted as Leeds fans bit their nails rather than trumpeted and crowed.

A stirring second-half display from Pompey had the hosts scrambling for defensive cover.

Steve Cotterill’s men were dominant and in control.

Regardless, it ended with a fifth Blues defeat of the Championship campaign.

Once again, a highly-impressive second 45 minutes had caught the eye.

But again, a dreadful first half had left Pompey with a mountain to climb.

It has become a recurring feature of their matches this season.

The Blues would be bottom of the table if only the first 45 minutes of games counted this season.

According to Opta statistics, they would be sixth if the second halves were solely taken into consideration.

Leeds represented another below-par first half from Cotterill’s men – and there have been plenty of them.

Just two of Pompey’s 11 goals this season have come during the opening period.

Unsurprisingly, in their 11 matches, not once have they headed into the break in a winning position.

Then comes the inevitable rally following the interval.

It is true Jekyll & Hyde stuff which is hard to fathom.

And Cotterill admitted his Pompey players were struggling to explain the reasons behind Saturday’s opening 45 minutes at Elland Road.

He said: ‘In the first half against Leeds we found it hard to get going.

‘It’s hard to explain the lethargy.

‘Then in the second half it was much improved.

‘We put a great effort in but that effort is needed in the first half as well.

‘Listening to the players, before I said anything at the end of the game, they were hugely disappointed with that first half. We then spoke about it and about how I can’t always come in and do a half-time team talk.

‘Sometimes we need to help ourselves a little bit there.

‘We do everything we possibly can to make sure we start the game brightly.

‘We are always organised, well prepared and from set plays we know what we want to do.

‘Then they put in a first-half performance like that.

‘We come in at half-time and they go out into the second half and give everything.

‘We have given all we can, were on our front foot, dominated the ball – but we are one down from a set play.

‘That makes it hard to get back into the game and that second half was not enough.’

The introduction of Kanu and a system switch to 4-4-2 helped kick-start the team into action at Elland Road.

Nonetheless, the veteran striker would struggle to be as effective over the full 90 minutes.

In contrast, against Peterborough, it was not a change in personnel which prompted a vastly-improved showing after the break.

It wasn’t until the 85th minute before Cotterill made his first substitution.

That was a match Pompey also deserved something from.

Instead they suffered the heartbreak of a last-gasp defeat after being done on the counter-attack.

Cotterill admitted the Leeds defeat had capped a harsh week.

He added: ‘At the end of the game the initial frame of mind is disappointment because we got beat and you don’t want to lose games.

‘But we had done enough to get something out of it, definitely a draw.

‘With the midweek result against Peterborough on the back of that it made a pretty cruel week.

‘I think at the moment, if you look at our past couple of games, we deserved plenty more from them.

‘And that is the tough part about it.’