News sports writer Jeff Marshman shares three things we learnt from Pompey’s FA Cup exit to Bournemouth...
A GOAL TO REMEMBER
Match of the Day may not have done it justice but all those inside Fratton Park on Saturday witnessed a goal to remember from Gary Roberts.
I say Roberts, but the goal’s beauty came from its team craft.
A total of 48 passes arrived in the build-up to the game’s opener as Pompey threatened an FA Cup upset against Bournemouth.
Sadly, the Cherries’ Premier League class told in the second half as they came from behind to progress to the fifth round with a 2-1 win.
But leaving the ground there was only one thing on the lips of the Fratton faithful – that memorable goal.
Chants of ‘Ole’ rang around a packed ground as an 18,901-strong crowd were treated to an extended period of possession football from a side belying their League Two status.
It is one thing keeping hold of the ball but to be able to probe and unlock a defence is another.
And the manner with which Kyle Bennett and Marc McNulty interchanged passes to put the ball on a plate for Roberts showed the Blues’ impressive cutting edge as the visitors chased shadows.
Unsuprising then, that Fratton Park erupted with joy as the ball crashed into the back of the net.
Remarkably, though, this is not the first – and I doubt it will be the last – goal scored in such fashion under boss Paul Cook.
My previous favourite Blues effort arrived at Bristol Rovers earlier in the season when Jayden Stockley put the finishing touch on a meagre 18-pass move in a 2-1 away victory.
That time, though, one Pompey player – Christian Burgess – failed to get a touch in the build-up.
This time round, all 11 of Cook’s men featured in a piece of pure Pompey perfection.
THIS BLUES SIDE CAN PASS IT WITH THE BEST OF THEM
Pompey have encountered four teams from higher divisions this season.
They have yet to be overawed or outplayed.
Derby, Reading, Ipswich (twice) and now Bournemouth have all brought the best out of Paul Cook’s side.
Two wins, one draw and two losses is a decent return in the eyes of any so-called underdog.
Saturday’s FA Cup exit to Premier League Bournemouth was probably the pick of the bunch, performance-wise, and Cherries boss Eddie Howe was quick to lavish praise on the League Two side.
‘Portsmouth played very well, they pressed us and outpassed us which we haven’t seen at Premier League level,’ was his comment in the aftermath of the visitors’ victory.
If they are able to compete so well against teams in higher divisions, why exactly are the Blues not running away with the League Two title?
That’s the question some fans will be asking themselves.
The answer is probably found in the style of play preferred higher up the football pyramid.
Cook’s men like to play an attacking breed of patient, passing football.
League Two, however, is not often going to match Pompey with like-minded opponents.
But the physical, direct approach is one the Blues have to find a way to conquer if promotion to the easy-on-the-eye passing leagues is to come.
PROMOTION IS NOW THE ONLY PRIORITY FOR POMPEY Paul Cook cut short his media duties in the wake of Pompey’s 2-1 FA Cup defeat to Bournemouth on Saturday.
But the brief message he did deliver was reiterated by assistant boss Leam Richardson, who stepped in to carry on where the manager left off: Attention now turns to the League Two promotion race.
And in some respects, departing the Cup with their heads held high was the best-possible scenario for the Blues.
With the bread and butter being the mission to get out of League Two this season, an extended Cup run, while exciting for all involved, may have come as something of a distraction.
Heading into tonight’s clash with Morecambe, Cook’s men found themselves in sixth position by virtue of the fact others played on Saturday while they were hosting the Cherries.
And while they are by no means cut adrift of the automatic promotion places, Pompey are now three games behind some of their rivals.
With 20 games to go in the quest for promotion, you get the feeling Cook and Richardson are happy to now focus all of their time and effort on ensuring the Blues are plying their trade in League One next term.
That starts tonight at the Globe Arena where the visitors will look to take advantage of the Shrimps’ poor home form.
Eight losses is the second-worst in the league, and offers Pompey a great chance to start closing the gap on the teams above them..