Portsmouth showing the traits of contenders

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Pompey writer Jordan Cross looks back on the 3-0 win over Plymouth and looks at what we learnt from victory.

Counter-Attacking Class

Pompey celebrate victory over Plymouth. Picture: Joe Pepler

Pompey celebrate victory over Plymouth. Picture: Joe Pepler

Pompey’s attacking strength proved simply too much for Plymouth to handle.

But it wasn’t a case of all-out attack as the Pilgrims were comprehensively outfought and out-thought by Kenny Jackett and his players.

The Blues are now set up to be defensively stout and then hurt the opposition on the break.

That they did to devastating effect throughout the 90 minutes on Saturday.

Transition is the buzzword in the game at the moment, and the manner in which Pompey broke quickly turning defence into attack in clockwork fashion stood out.

Players knew exactly the positions they needed to take up, and the man on the ball knew exactly where his next pass was.

That saw Pompey breaking on Plymouth in three and fours on regular occasions.

The rampant Ronan Curtis and Jamal Lowe were key figures in doing so and quite rightly got the plaudits for their outstanding displays.

But Oli Hawkins was also a central figure in the first half before being taken off, with Gareth Evans again a stand-out player as the Blues burst out in numbers.

Jackett’s predecessor Paul Cook was a disciple of dominating the ball, while the new man appears to favour effective possession.

The signs are there the Pompey boss is beginning to get a team in his image.

Defensive Dominance

Zeroes and ones is the oft-repeated mantra of Kenny Jackett.

It’s a reference to the rate at which his side should be conceding goals if they are to be a successful side.

The good news is the Blues are now becoming the powerful defensive unit the manager is demanding.

The record reads three goals conceded in six league games to date, or 0.5 goals conceded per game.

At the heart of that improvement from last season is the form of Matt Clarke and Jack Whatmough alongside him, at the heart of Pompey’s defence.

A 10-minute spell before the break with a similar period after the restart was the most Plymouth threatened, but they found the pair in stoic mood.

When injury forced Whatmough from the pitch, it was Christian Burgess who slotted seamlessly in and maintained the resilient mindset.

But it wasn't just about the back four as Pompey impressed as a defensive unit.

Ben Thompson and particularly Tom Naylor stood out as a blanket for the players behind them.

The manner in which Kenny Jackett’s side pressed Plymouth into mistakes was evident, with Naylor even getting after their centre-halves at times.

The progress from last season is there for all to see.

Strength in Numbers

The loan window is closed and Pompey’s squad has been assembled.

Kenny Jackett will have 25 first-team players to call upon between now and January in the bid to reach the Championship.

Joe Mason became the 10th summer arrival on deadline day and the fourth loan to join from sides from a higher level.

There’s little doubt those loans have raised the level of the squad with Mason joining Ben Thompson, Andre Green and David Wheeler.

Only one of those players was on the pitch on Saturday, but the impact of those additions could be seen in Pompey’s display.

Those on the pitch know there is no leeway for a drop in the level of performance, with there someone waiting to take their shirt.

Subconscious or otherwise, it’s a reality that happens when there’s not someone of a similar level of quality pushing for your place in the side.

The concerned murmurings being made by the players who picked up knocks was revealing after the game.

They know they can ill-afford a period out of contention which could allow a team-mate to build a head of steam in their position.

But they are positive noises for a manager to hear. Kenny Jackett knows he now has the kind of squad needed to be contenders.