Jordan Cross looks back on Pompey’s win against Northampton and assesses the main talking points.
A useful exercise
It’s a much-maligned competition with good reason.
But there’s no doubt the Checkatrade Trophy is proving useful to Pompey this season.
The Blues’ opposed stance on the event continues, with supporters boycotting it over the introduction of ‘B teams’ last year.
It’s a position which emanates from within the club itself, with chief executive Mark Catlin a vocal critic and Pompey continuing to vote against the format.
But a lift in prize money to £3m was enough for 66 per cent of clubs to forget their principals and back the changes.
And we’ve now seen on three occasions the benefits of Checkatrade games to the first team.
Two earlier fixtures have sparked winning runs, with the present spell of five wins from six beginning at Charlton last month, after four defeats on the bounce.
It’s offered the chance for players outside of the starting XI to impress, with Danny Rose, Gareth Evans and Kal Naismith gaining first-team runs after Checkatrade outings.
Curtis Main, Stuart O’Keefe and Christian Burgess were the trio to come back into the equation against Northampton, with varying degrees of success.
Again, though, Jackett opted to play another strong side against the Cobblers – and it seems that stance is set to continue.
Straight off the training ground
It’s been drilled into Pompey’s squad at their Roko training base.
So it would’ve been satisfying for players and staff alike to see the graft reap dividends in the form of the Blues’ opening goal against Northampton.
Kenny Jackett has highlighted how he feels his team can be at their most dangerous counter-attacking swiftly from their opponents’ incursions forward.
That was illustrated in beautiful fashion for Gareth Evans’ first goal of the season, four minutes before the break.
It was a flowing team goal which proved very easy on the eye as Jackett’s men broke at a pace.
Brandon Haunstrup got the move going, bringing the ball out from the back with dogged determination.
He fed Evans, who spread the ball wide for Conor Chaplin, before motoring into the box where Chaplin’s dinked cross was confidently headed home.
It took 13 seconds from Haunstrup picking up the ball after Lewis McGugan’s cross to Evans applying the finish.
It was a very modern kind of goal, which underlined how a team can be at their most dangerous when the opposition are attacking.
Boycott a boycott?
Pompey continue to voice a principled opposition to the Checkatrade Trophy.
That’s both as a club, who voted against the amendments to the competition’s format, and fans, with many continuing to boycott fixtures.
Last season’s victory over Bristol Rovers saw a post-war low attendance for a game at Fratton Park, with just 1,200 tickets sold.
Saturday’s win over Northampton set a new low for an attendance at a Saturday fixture, with 1,780 fans choosing to put off the Christmas shopping for another day.
The home games to date have seen 1,520 turn out for the Fulham draw, 1,527 for the win over Crawley and 206 Blues fans among the 1,307 at Charlton.
Pompey supporters could well be about to have the strength of feeling over opposing the competition tested, however.
Their team are now just three wins from their first return to Wembley since 2010’s FA Cup final defeat to Chelsea.
On social media, the debate is raging between those valuing the potential opportunity to support their side at the home of football, with fans who will keep up their boycott all the way.
While his predecessor, Paul Cook, voiced his disdain for Checkatrade, Kenny Jackett has enjoyed success in it before – winning it with Swansea in 2007.
The manager doesn’t view the games as a distraction and admitted he wouldn’t mind repeating his previous feat with Pompey.