What we learnt from Pompey’s defeat to Stevenage

Michael Smith goal against Boro was his third in three games Picture: Joe Pepler
Michael Smith goal against Boro was his third in three games Picture: Joe Pepler
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Jordan Cross looks back on Pompey’s defeat against Stevenage and assesses what we learnt from the game...

Same side, different outcome

The Pompey fan’s frustration echoed those felt by the majority of the 15,987 crowd.

And it boiled over into a post-match tirade at Paul Cook from the South Stand.

The gist of his views was that playing one striker at home wasn’t good enough.

Cook, to his credit, maintained his calm in the face of what was a fairly provoking moment.

The truth is playing with one up front wasn’t the reason for the Blues’ downfall on Saturday.

Fifteen shots on goal and a history of racking up chances at Fratton indicates that’s not the issue.

The reality is too many of Pompey’s attacking players were not on their game.

And the defending exhibited by Cook’s side is not the kind which will get you promoted.

One of the most perplexing factors in defeat was this was exactly the same starting XI who’d dominated a promotion rival on their own patch four days’ earlier.

That huge differential in levels of performance is a bigger factor in the Blues’ travails than any formation.

Smudge makes mark

It’s unlikely he’ll ever be revered like Conor Chaplin.

But Michael Smith is beginning to look more like the player he can be for Pompey.

After appearing bereft of self-belief earlier in the campaign, the 25-year-old set about his display with conviction and confidence on Saturday.

That was clearly the benefit of two goals in as many games for Paul Cook’s side.

It looked like the Geordie was caught on his heels in the first half on a couple of occasions.

There was no doubting he was a willing runner, however, one more inclined to get shots off from anywhere around the area.

A problem, though, was Smith found himself isolated on too many occasions and without the runners getting beyond him he needs.

That also appeared a consequence of Pompey looking to get the ball forward quicker than they often have of late.

Chaplin’s introduction provided him with a strike partner. His miss from six yards was the kind which would have seen Smith harangued.

There were only plaudits for him this time, though, as he made his mark.