Jordan Cross looks back on Pompey’s loss to Rotherham and discusses the talking points...
WING-BACKS GROUNDED FOR NOW
It’s introduction has been oft-touted this term.
But Kenny Jackett chose to roll out a wing-back formation for the first time in front of the television cameras against Rotherham.
Boosted by his deadline-day transfer business and, importantly, the return of Matt Clarke, the Pompey boss felt he had the right balance to make the switch.
The move lasted 45 stuttering minutes before being ditched with the Blues a goal down at the break. Jackett’s side looked ill-at-ease in that time.
The pre-match excitement at what was undoubtedly an attacking line-up didn’t translate on to the sodden Fratton surface.
Jackett opted to play a 3-4-1-2 formation with Brett Pitman behind Conor Chaplin and new boy Oliver Hawkins.
There was no fluency to the hosts’ forward play, though, with both wing-backs Brandon Haunstrup and Jamal Lowe struggling to impact the game.
With Pompey a goal down and Rotherham certain to defend their advantage deeply, the extra defender was sacrificed at the break.
A more orthodox 4-4-2 offered extra width and a better all-round performance.
Jackett is looking for flexibility in his team’s approach, though, meaning we are likely to see wing-backs again moving forward.
EVOLUTION OR REVOLUTION
Evolution not revolution was the mantra being preached on Kenny Jackett’s arrival.
The message was Pompey didn’t need major surgery after winning League Two.
It’s proving rather different in reality, though.
Deadline day saw four players in and four out with a frenetic period of action taking Jackett’s signings to nine since his arrival.
That led to four players being handed their Pompey debuts against Rotherham, while two cornerstones of last season’s success – Kyle Bennett and Danny Rose – were dropped from the match-day squad.
In fact, of last season’s title winners, Matt Clarke and Christian Burgess were the only regular starters name in Jackett’s starting line-up against the Millers.
It’s unsurprising to see the Pompey boss continuing his policy of favouring youth over experience.
Gary Roberts (33), Carl Baker (34), David Forde (37), Michael Doyle (36) and Noel Hunt (34) have left and were all north of 30.
Every single player in Sunday’s 18-man squad were under 30 with the starting team’s average age just 22.7.
This is now a set-up in Jackett’s image.
NUMBERS DON’T ADD UP
Rotherham’s ugly away statistics don’t shine Sunday’s defeat in a pretty light.
The Millers’ win was their first away success in 28 games of trying – a run spanning a whopping 512 days.
From Pompey’s angle, it is now six games without a victory since the opening-day defeat of Rochdale.
With the Blues coming up into League One and Rotherham down from the Championship after a miserable campaign last term, our eyes told us there wasn’t much between the sides on the pitch.
After a poor first 45 minutes, though, the home side couldn’t grumble at being behind.
Things improved after the break but there are concerns about both the quality of chances being created and the inability to take them.
Pompey had more possession than Rotherham (55 per cent) but again often failed to have a player capable of bursting forward and breaking the lines.
At 13 shots, Pompey had one more effort on goal than their rivals but managed to divert just two on target.
Jamal Lowe’s header before the break and shot after the restart spring to mind as the clearest which failed to work the keeper.
It’s evident there’s still major work needed on the front foot to make the numbers add up.