Pompey writer Jordan Cross picks the bones out of the Blues’ 3-1 win at Rochdale and looks at what we learnt from the victory.
The point was made politely but firmly.
The topic up for discussion was the debate surrounding Brett Pitman leading the line in Pompey’s current formation.
‘I don't think you play nearly 500 games in the Championship and League One mainly, if you can't do it,’ the Blues skipper said of his suitability to the role. ‘I obviously can do it.’
To underline that fact, the 30-year-old had just delivered a man-of-the-match on his first league start for eight weeks - and just his second League One outing of the season.
Oli Hawkins’ contribution to Pompey’s impressive start has been recognised, as he provides a focal point for his team.
Pitman has made the point there’s no comparing the two players, with the duo bringing very different strengths to the table.
But the sight of Pitman playing through the middle with Ronan Curtis and Jamal Lowe threatening either side of him, meant Pompey offered real attacking threat at Rochdale.
After a goal and assist for on his 50th appearance took his goal total to a hugely-impressive 29 finishes since joining Pompey, the shirt is currently the hitman’s to keep hold of.
Rochdale’s spectacular fourth-minute opener came as a bolt from the blue.
But the reaction at Spotland said much about Pompey’s promotion credentials.
It would’ve been easy for panic to set during an opening in which things didn’t go to plan.
Kenny Jackett’s men kept their nerve, however, before calmly asserting their authority on proceedings.
Keith Hill noted the manner in which Pompey managed the game better than his side in his post-match assessment.
Hill felt the fact the Blues made better decisions than his team was a crucial factor in the game’s outcome.
That was seen as the visitors came under pressure for a lengthy period after the restart.
Pompey kept it simple and robust and rarely looked like being breached, before countering in ruthless fashion with Brett Pitman’s goal with 19 minutes remaining.
That knocked the life out of the home side and Jackett’s side saw the game out in comfortable fashion from there.
Defender’s Attacking Class
We all know about Matt Clarke’s potential and quality.
But it’s been a criticism of the defender from his manager he doesn’t threaten enough in the opposition box.
Clarke gave the most impressive of rispostes to that view in the Rochdale victory.
The 22-year-old’s second goal of the season came through qualities a striker would be delighted to possess.
Clarke first caused a nuisance of himself from Ronan Curtis’ corner with his strength, before picking up the ball, coolly sticking it through Aaron Wilbraham’s legs and thumping an emphatic finish past Josh Lillis.
As his team-mates have noticed, it was the kind of goal the former Ipswich man is more than capable of producing.
Clarke’s marauding runs forward have been a feature of his game this season.
But the final decision has more often than not been a pass to a team-mate, rather than taking on a shot.
Clarke has been encouraged to be more selfish is such situation and the Rochdale strike underlined why, with the prized asset possessing finishing quality in an impressive arsenal of attributes.