What we learnt from Pompey’s win against Wycombe

Gary Roberts Picture: Joe Pepler
Gary Roberts Picture: Joe Pepler
Kal Naismith. Picture: Joe Pepler

Naismith confident over new Pompey contract

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Sports writer David Brawn discusses the main talking points from Saturday’s 2-1 win against the Chairboys.

Pompey’s season will be extended

The 2-1 win against Wycombe has certainly ensured Pompey will be playing on until at least the middle of May.

And if all goes to plan then a long, tough season is going to extend until Monday, May 30, at Wembley.

Eighth-placed Cambridge are never going to close the six-point gap and massive goal difference deficit they have to make up.

The hopes of automatic promotion were crushed by the defeats against Plymouth and York.

There’s no realistic chance of overhauling the three teams directly above, despite that not yet being mathematically impossible either.

But Paul Cook’s men picked themselves up off the floor after those painful losses to make it four wins out of their past six matches – not a bad record by any means.

They have kept fighting on and the Blues boss has rightly praised the efforts his players have put in to make sure they still have a chance to earn promotion.

It’s a sign of progress for the club after the misery of recent seasons.

History tells us anything can happen in the play-offs – there will be no favourites, just four teams on a level playing field desperate to claw their way into the final at Wembley.

So it’s time to put any disappointment of not making the top three to one side and get set for the prospect of huge battles ahead.

Conor Chaplin is most definitely still around

When he was called off the bench in the 60th minute on Saturday, you just knew Conor Chaplin would seize his chance.

The talented teenager was never going to pass up this opportunity in such a crucial game for Pompey at Fratton Park.

He took just seven minutes to get his goal, when he flicked the ball home after racing on to a sublime pass from Michael Doyle.

It was crucial for Pompey as Wycombe’s fightback came up short and Paul Cook’s men can now look ahead to the League Two play-offs.

Before Saturday Chaplin had not registered a goal for the Blues since March 1 at Exeter.

So his contribution against Wycombe was a very welcome reminder he is still around.

Cook admitted after Saturday’s match that, looking back, he feels he has probably underused Chaplin this season.

That’s despite the Blues manager’s father being among those banging the drum for the teenager to be given more playing time.

But it’s not been easy in the pressure cauldron of a League Two promotion battle, with experienced forward players vying for those prized starting spots.

Cook has had to consider the best plan for combat against powerful and uncompromising defenders.

He has also had to think about the bigger picture, doing what is right for the striker’s long-term development.

But after Saturday’s impact you just get the feeling Chaplin is back at the sharp end of things, with Pompey’s quest for promotion soon to be stepped up a level.

And who would bet against the popular Academy graduate having more big chapters to write this season.

You can be certain any tired League Two centre-back would not relish having to shackle the forward’s enthusiasm and infectious hunger at any stage of a match at Wembley on Monday, May 30.

Marc McNulty and Gary Roberts carved open the meanest defence in League Two

Pompey’s vibrant attacking play left the Wycombe defenders chasing shadows for long spells on Saturday.

In particular, Marc McNulty and Gary Roberts tormented the visitors who have the best defensive record in League Two this season.

The duo were untouchable as their movement and link play was too much for Wycombe to cope with.

Roberts showed he can be Pompey’s talisman for the big matches to come this season.

In his interview after the game, Paul Cook highlighted his ability to always affect games.

Roberts is a conductor – he makes the team tick.

And with McNulty drifting out wide to create spaces in the heart of the Wycombe defence, it was Roberts who was in the right place to capitalise.

The tactic paid off in style with Pompey’s opening goal.

McNulty burst down the right channel and delivered a precise pass for Roberts to slide the ball high into the net.

That goal summed up perfectly the way the duo dovetailed throughout the first half and their positive play bodes well for the matches ahead.