Stuart Hardman, 39, from Cosham, gives his verdict on Pompey’s win over Rochdale on Saturday.
• Perfect start for everyone then.
Yes, a promising performance against a decent Rochdale team who have been challenging for the play-offs over the past few seasons.
We had more penetration than them and defensively looked solid – it was in midfield where we lacked guile and Carl Baker really weakened it.
The midfield area just didn’t appear settled and Danny Rose had to run an awful lot.
Still, I can see us finishing in the top eight, maybe even in and around the play-offs, which would represent really good progress.
• So before the match, what did you make of the team selection?
There appeared a few odd choices but then again I didn’t know Milan Lalkovic was meant to play.
I was certainly perplexed with Drew Talbot and in the opening 30 minutes he looked terrible, really bad, miskicking everything. Then when he switched to left-back he was a different player, much more confident and seemed to be better in that role, which is weird.
Jack Whatmough fulfilled my faith in him, although Baker’s distribution was poor and I cannot see him holding a central midfield spot long.
• You mentioned Whatmough, your man of the match?
Definitely. Before the game I wanted him in my team ahead of Tom Davies and thankfully that happened.
He was outstanding, winning everything and distributing the ball very well – you cannot argue with his display.
Jack is a good all-round player – tackles well, heads it well, passes it well.
But most of all reads the game brilliantly and is often able to nick a ball ahead of the striker.
He has been promising for a few seasons now and if he carries on like that it may be harsh to bring Matt Clarke back in when he is fit again.
• And your first impression of Brett Pitman?
I didn’t see him in pre-season but before the game had a fiver on him at 15/1 to finish as League One’s top scorer.
Having now watched Pitman, I can see him getting 20 goals a season if he carries on like that.
We have not had that kind of striker for a number of years.
Certainly, he looks a class above and I saw on Twitter him described as a cross between Steve Claridge and Kanu.
Someone who is kind of robust, rough and tumble who can get the ball to stick to his feet.
• Stuart’s ratings: Luke McGee 7; Drew Talbot 7; Christian Burgess 8; Jack Whatmough 9; Tareiq Holmes-Dennis 6; Danny Rose 7; Carl Baker 6; Gareth Evans 7; Brett Pitman 9; Kyle Bennett 7; Conor Chaplin 7
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