Portsmouth’s Fratton challenges not going away… Millwall loanee is key cog in promotion bid

Pompey celebrate the Fleetwood winner from Oli Hawkins. Picture: Joe Pepler
Pompey celebrate the Fleetwood winner from Oli Hawkins. Picture: Joe Pepler
0
Have your say

Pompey writer Jordan Cross gives the final verdict on the Fleetwood win and looks at what we learnt from the game.

One-Goal Romp

Kenny Jackett’s post-match assessment was the game was about as comprehensive a 1-0 win as you are likely to see.

Not all Pompey fans concurred with that view from a man who is always balanced with his analysis of his side’s performances.

The fact Fleetwood couldn’t muster a shot on target to work Craig MacGillivray in 96 minutes of football was telling, however. The visitors had just two efforts in total.

True, the home side could only manage one more on target from their 11 efforts on goal - which was taken by Oli Hawkins five minutes after the restart.

But the home side were comfortable and undoubtedly the dominant side in the second half.

What probably swayed many fans’ views of the afternoon was how dire the first 45 minutes proved to be.

Neither side really mustered an effort of note in a bitty, disjointed affair.

That would have left the home fans wondering where this table-topping side they’d heard about was hiding, after three home league games without a win stretching back to the start of the September.

The reality is, however, this side of Jackett’s is a hard-working, solid, functional outfit with attacking players in Ronan Curtis and Jamal Lowe who possess the potential to elevate their team above the rest with pacy counter-attacks. Pompey aren't about to carve open opponents with irresistible tiki-taka football.

Their formula is one which is working on the road, but the challenge presented by visiting teams who aren’t going roll over or commit attacking suicide isn’t going to go away.

Hawks High

Oli Hawkins marked his 50th Pompey appearance in the best possible manner with the Fleetwood winner.

It was heartening to see the 26-year-old get the reward for a textbook performance in leading the line for his side.

Hawkins is never going to be your 25-goal a season marksman, but what you do get from the 6ft 5in powerhouse is the kind of all-round game which places the team before the individual.

That was underlined in his post-match views which spoke about the team ethic he feels is helping Pompey stand apart from the rest so far this season.

Hawkins’ game is proving crucial to the way Kenny Jackett’s team are playing with the number of high balls aimed in his direction sticking, allowing the pace Pompey possess to get beyond him and threaten.

Against a robust Fleetwood defence, Hawkins won countless headers and underlined how his link-up play is improving and benefitting from the confidence he’s evidently developing in that side of his game.

He says it’s about the collective and not the individual, but It was Hawkins’ performance which proved central to Pompey opening up a six-point lead at the top of League One.

Thompson Wins

His debut offered a mouth-watering aperitif to Pompey fans of his promise.

But, by Kenny Jackett’s admission, Ben Thompson’s form has been variable since he showcased the talent in his arsenal with a stunning bow against Oxford United in August.

The signs are the midfield loanee’s performance levels are returning to the highs we’ve seen he’s capable of achieving.

Thompson undoubtedly warranted the man-of-the-match plaudits he received in the Fleetwood success.

The 23-year-old has the rare gift of being able to showcase defensive qualities as well as impact a game going forward - the holy grail for any midfielder.

Those talents were utlilised as Jackett continued with the same 4-4-1-1 formation he used at AFC Wimbledon, as Kenny Jackett bids to find the formula to open teams up at Fratton Park.

The approach failed to work, however, leading to Thompson being thrust into an attacking role in the 4-2-3-1 shape used for most of the campaign after the break.

The switch undoubtedly brightened Pompey up, and, although perhaps not an obvious choice for the role, the Londoner has enough about him to be effective and pull opposing teams out of shape with his clever passing.

In the form Thompson is returning to he’s a key cog in the Blues’ promotion bid.