Life on Marsh: Have Blues already stumbled upon winning Fratton formula?

Pompey boss Paul Cook    Picture: Joe Pepler
Pompey boss Paul Cook Picture: Joe Pepler
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This weekend’s edition of Life on Marsh was penned by Sports Mail writer Jeff Marshman prior to Pompey’s FA Cup clash with Macclesfield.

Two defeats from 16 games is a highly-impressive statistic that speaks volumes for the job Paul Cook has done in knitting together a completely new team, albeit with financial backing from the club’s board.

But ask the average fan on the street for their take on the campaign so far and the response will be one of Fratton frustration.

Somewhat remarkably, the Blues have reversed an away record ranked the second-worst in English football last season (one can only sympathise with Blackpool fans) to the extent that more points have been gathered on the road this time out.

Who, what, where, when and why, though?

Well, Cook’s preferred 4-2-3-1 formation and insistence to play it both at home and away, regardless of opponent appears to be the answer – or is it the problem?

Pompey have won just twice in eight Fratton Park league outings but five times on their travels from the same number of games – a brilliant return from a side who triumphed just three times on the road last season.

The expectation placed upon home teams to take the game to their opponents has undoubtedly suited Pompey’s ability to hit on the counter-attack, with their long spells of possession proving a source of immense frustration.

At Fratton Park, however, it is the reverse story – teams are content to sit in, counter-attack only when the opportunity arises and in the main collect a well-earned point for their discipline.

I wonder, though, if the Blues may have already stumbled upon a winning Fratton formula?

Rewind back to their last home success – a 3-1 triumph over Barnet in September.

Again, as they have done on every other occasion this season, Cook’s men lined up in a 4-2-3-1 system.

But an injury to chief playmaker Gary Roberts prompted a half-time switch to 3-5-2 and, in my opinion, the team looked transformed in the second half.

A 1-1 half-time scoreline made way to a comfortable victory come the full-time whistle as the Blues played with an attacking purpose the Bees failed to live with.

In reality, the switch in system was not too severe as attacking full-backs Enda Stevens and Ben Davies were converted into the wing-back roles they are capable of thriving in, with Adam Webster, Christian Burgess and Matt Clarke providing the cover from behind.

The introduction of two strikers is something the Fratton faithful have been crying out for ever since.

Given the fact League Two’s reigning top goalscorer Matt Tubbs – also the Blues’ leading marksman heading into today’s FA Cup clash with Macclesfield – thrives alongside a fellow forward, it’s something I personally would like to see return in home games.

Cook, however, is a man of principle and will rightly point to the league table for a job well done and no great need for change.

But the longer away teams come to Fratton Park, sit in and isolate the lone striker – the louder the calls will grow for a switch in system and 3-5-2 looks an appealing alternative to me.