Pompey counting cost of brittle defence

Adam Campbell scores the winner for Notts County against Pompey at Fratton Park Picture: Joe Pepler
Adam Campbell scores the winner for Notts County against Pompey at Fratton Park Picture: Joe Pepler
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Pompey’s defence has never been more brittle during the Paul Cook regime.

And it is threatening to unravel the Blues’ latest attempts to escape the confines of their League Two dungeon.

The manner of Saturday’s 2-1 defeat to Notts County did not represent the exception, it reflected what has become a depressing norm.

A alarming defensive fallibility has crept into Cook’s team’s play since the opening month to blow apart encouraging progress.

Pompey have now conceded twice or more in a game six times during their opening 14 league fixtures.

Last season it occurred on nine occasions in an entire League Two campaign which would result in collecting a play-off position.

The Fratton faithful have witnessed the team’s new-found inadequacy for themselves, following successive home defeats in the league.

Similarly, Cook has publicly acknowledged the growing concerns over a defensive unit which, crucially, has been cracking under barely any strain.

‘The goals we give away we will concentrate on. We keep conceding poor goals,’ the Blues boss said after Saturday’s loss to the Magpies.

‘We used to be so solid. Now we need to go a goal behind to get going.

‘We shouldn’t concede the (first) goal, it’s so easy to stop. It was avoidable to say the least.’

The statistics continue to offer a damning verdict – there can be no sugarcoating.

In league terms, that is nine conceded in the past five matches.

Alternately, it can be portrayed as 13 shipped during the previous eight League Two encounters.

Either statistic outstrips Pompey’s defensive record from the 2015-16 campaign, which saw them finish with the fourth-best in the division.

Their worst short-term spell spanned April 9-26, 2016, when seven were conceded in a five-game spell which would effectively signal the end of automatic promotion hopes.

That consisted of defeats to Plymouth (1-2) and at York City (1-3), while there was a clean sheet in victory at future play-off winners AFC Wimbledon.

Over a longer period, Cook’s troops conceded in eight successive league fixtures from January 23 until March 1, 2016.

However, each involved a single goal during a run which included three losses and two victories.

It does not compare to the 13 yielded in the Blues’ most recent eight matches.

That present run has seen Wycombe, Blackpool, Doncaster, Plymouth and now Notts County each help themselves to at least two goals in Pompey encounters.

Most crucial of all, half of those games have ended in defeats to seriously hamper the Blues’ ambitions of challenging for the automatic promotion spots.

Regardless, Cook’s men are presently in fifth, still well in contention and possessing an ability to score goals through a number of sources.

However, their present inability to defend is blunting the capability of a team which cannot comprehend a fifth season in the bottom division.