Pompey v Bradford: pre-match talking points

Brett Pitman. Picture: Joe Pepler
Brett Pitman. Picture: Joe Pepler
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Will Rooney assesses the talking points ahead of Pompey’s game against Bradford at Fratton Park tomorrow.

Pressure is on

Matt Clarke thought Pompey had finally cracked League One after back-to-back wins against Gillingham and MK Dons.

However, that momentum has jettisoned following successive away defeats to Doncaster and Blackburn.

The Blues left Ewood Park empty-handed – and rightly so after an insipid performance.

Against Donny, Kenny Jackett’s troops gave themselves a mountain to climb after going two goals down after six minutes.

The competition continues to come thick and fast for Pompey as they entertain third-placed Bradford to Fratton Park.

It’s been over two-and-a-half years since the Blues suffered three losses on the bounce.

On April 18, 2015, Pompey fell to a 1-0 home defeat to Bury, which piled even more pressure on the soon-to-be-sacked Andy Awford.

The Blues are adapting to their new surroundings in the third tier, with Kenny Jackett still stamping his authority on his squad.

Nevertheless, slipping to a trio of defeats would be deemed unacceptable by some sections of the Fratton faithful, in a higher division or not.

Paul Cook went close to losing three games on three occasions during his two-year spell as manager, but salvaged a result on each occasion when the pressure was on.

A loss would not be disastrous for Pompey in a season that many are calling for consolidation.

But the manner of the performance is the crucial factor the Blues will be judged on.

The return of the talisman

Pompey have been without their talisman for the best part of their past five matches.

Brett Pitman made his return from a knee injury at Ewood Park, but by the time he replaced Oli Hawkins on 63 minutes the game was already beyond reach.

The former Bournemouth man is expected to come back into the starting line-up and take up his regular No10 berth against Bradford.

Pitman has been indispensable for Pompey this campaign, having scored nine league goals from 12 appearances to date.

Hawkins came to the fore by bagging a double in the 2-0 win against MK Dons.

However, during Pitman’s time on the sidelines, the Blues have netted just four goals from four league games.

More worryingly, they have had just 11 shots on target during that period and were toothless against Doncaster and Blackburn.

Pitman has the ability to score out of nothing – his second against Fleetwood is already a goal-of-the-season contender.

Bradford harbour automatic promotion ambitions this season after suffering play-off final heartbreak against Millwall last term.

It’s Pompey’s toughest home game of the campaign to date and they must take their chances against the Bantams.

It’s likely a few of them will fall to Pitman and can be almost certain he will make the goalkeeper work, at least.

Players must thrive on the atmosphere

Inconsistency is the word that sticks out like a sore thumb when assessing Pompey’s season so far.

There have been promising displays against MK Dons and Fleetwood, while losses to Blackburn and Oldham have been deemed nowhere near good enough.

The Blues’ major flaws have been on the road as they show a record of two wins, one draw and five defeats.

However, at Fratton Park there form hasn’t been too shabby at all.

Pompey boast five victories, one draw and two losses at a win rate of 62.5 per cent.

At this stage of the season under Paul Cook last term, the Blues’ victory ratio on their own patch was 57 per cent.

Kenny Jackett’s outfit will relish having the Fratton faithful back behind them after slumping to defeats at Doncaster and Blackburn.

Fratton Park’s attendance is expected to be the fullest it has been so far this term.

The crowd will not doubt create a carnival-like atmosphere and Pompey must thrive off it.