Will Rooney looks back on Saturday’s loss to Bradford and assesses the main talking points...
POOR FINISHING – BUT A GREAT PERFORMANCE
Nobody needs to remind Kyle Bennett of the miserable time he has endured in front of goal this season.
The former Doncaster man is yet to get off the mark and missed at least three golden opportunities against Bradford.
Instead of going home with the match ball as Pompey’s hero on Saturday, he was the pantomime villain!
The chances he missed aside, though, the 27-year-old’s performance was the strongest he has recorded this campaign.
After being dislodged by Cardiff loanee Matty Kennedy in his preferred left-wing role, Bennett has been handed a second chance in the starting line-up in the No10 position.
And although it came through injuries to Brett Pitman and Conor Chaplin, the attacker has adapted well.
On Saturday, Pompey’s skipper returned to the line-up – but he was surprisingly spearheading the attack instead of his preferred role in the hole behind the main striker.
Bennett was the Blues’ chief protagonist against the Bantams and looked like the buoyant forward who helped Pompey to the League Two title.
Granted, not hitting the target is inexcusable for a player with so much talent as him.
But Bennett is clearly lacking confidence in the final third, which has stemmed from a season in and out of the team.
He lay slumped on the floor after failing to hit the target with the goal gaping on 49 minutes, after rounding Bradford goalkeeper Colin Doyle.
The fans, however, appreciated his efforts to gamble on Adam Thompson’s poor header and show the confidence to go round the keeper.
Bennett will be disappointed not to have netted, but his goal duck will be broken if he continues to play like he did against Bradford.
CLOSE CONTINUES TO BLOSSOM
Ben Close is enjoying his best run in Pompey’s starting line-up.
The 20-year-old had spells in and out of the team two seasons ago under Paul Cook, but now he’s stamped his authority on Kenny Jackett’s side.
The Fratton faithful know how neat and tidy the academy product is – it’s very seldom he gives away the ball and has the ability to spread the play adeptly.
But it was Close’s pressing and aggression that stood out against Bradford at the weekend.
He read the play superbly, making a number of brilliant interceptions, while he also was aggressive in the tackle.
The former Eastleigh loanee almost got his rewards for his harrying in the second period.
He nipped in front of Bantams captain Romain Vincelot high up the field, before showing good awareness to play a first-time one-two with Conor Chaplin.
With the goal beckoning, Close had the chance to score his maiden Blues goal but had his effort stopped by the alert Colin Doyle.
The midfielder continues to blossom alongside Stuart O’Keefe in the engine room and showed why he is keeping Danny Rose out of the team.
POMPEY CAN MATCH LEAGUE’S BEST
It condemned Pompey to a third successive defeat.
Instead, it should have been a well-deserved three points from the home side at Fratton Park.
Kenny Jackett’s troops were by far the better team against a Bradford side who harbour automatic promotion ambitions this campaign.
Even Bantams boss Stuart McCall admitted his team didn’t deserve anything from the game that attracted the Blues’ biggest gate of the season.
But Bradford crucially took their opportunity when it arose – and credit to them.
Matthew Kilgallon converted Tony McMahon’s free-kick past Luke McGee – just their second effort on target all game. And the Blues only had themselves to blame.
A combination of missed opportunities and a defensive lapse was their downfall.
Nevertheless, the performance highlighted Pompey are capable of not just going toe-to-toe with the best sides in League One but outperforming them.
If the Blues learn to become more composed in both thirds of the pitch, they have the capabilities of becoming a force in the division.