What we learnt from Pompey’s win at Wimbledon

Conor Chaplin scores in the 2-0 win at AFC Wimbledon Picture: Joe Pepler
Conor Chaplin scores in the 2-0 win at AFC Wimbledon Picture: Joe Pepler
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Will Rooney looks back on Saturday’s win at AFC Wimbledon and assesses the main talking points.

Chaplin grabs his chance again

It was a decision that would have frustrated Conor Chaplin.

The striker was taken off at the break against Rotherham as Kenny Jackett reshuffled his pack and switched formations – just eight days after earning Pompey a point at Wigan.

Against Wimbledon, the 20-year-old began the game in an all-too-familiar position – among the substitutes.

A head injury to fellow forward Oliver Hawkins handed Chaplin the opportunity he desperately craved at half-time.

And it took him just five minutes to make his mark and prove a point to Jackett.

He was lucky Anthony Hartigan skewed Matty Kennedy’s whipped cross from the left as the ball fell kindly for the academy graduate.

The forward would have been disappointed not to have beaten Dons goalkeeper George Long with his first effort, but Chaplin showed the composure to make the most of his second bite of the cherry from an acute angle.

Hawkins’ injury means he’ll miss tomorrow night’s League One trip to Northampton.

However, with his predatory instincts and energy in the final third, surely Chaplin would have been given the nod to start.

Another impressive showing off the bench must give him the right to prove he can lead the line for the new manager.

Pompey have got their bite back

Kenny Jackett and fans alike were expecting a physical battle against a side who have firmly established themselves in League One.

After losing the likes of Michael Doyle and Enda Stevens from last season, there has arguably been a shortage of bite and aggression from Pompey this term.

All changed on Saturday, however.

The Blues grit their teeth and not just matched their opponents but triumphed in the aggression department.

There were nasty injuries to Callum Kennedy and Oliver Hawkins after a clash of heads on the stroke of half-time which meant the unfortunate duo could not participate after the restart.

Nonetheless, after Hawkins picked up a similar injury against Rotherham, it illustrates he’s up for the challenge and is not one to be bullied in his new Football League surroundings.

Stuart O’Keefe’s tenacity and destructiveness in the engine room created space for Adam May to showcase the talent he has on the ball.

He was more direct with his passing than he has been previously and produced his best performance so far this campaign.

Meanwhile, there was also a sumptuous performance from Christian Burgess.

The defender thwarted any aerial threats that came his way, while Nathan Thompson relishes nothing more than a 50-50 tackle.

Wing-backs could be on the shelf for a while

The 3-5-2 system operated against Rotherham was the focal talking point among the Fratton faithful last week.

But Kenny Jackett scrapped the system against the Dons on Saturday and might not deploy it again for some time.

A decision that could have ramifications for some, however,

For example, the previously suspended Gareth Evans was left out of the match-day squad against Wimbledon.

Despite functioning as an effective right-back last term, Evans struggled defensively against a potent attack of Wigan and was sent off for two yellow cards.

And from the outside looking in, Jackett appears to see the former Fleetwood man as more of an attacking threat than someone who can help shore up his defensive line.

Nathan Thompson was given his full debut at right-back, with fit-again Drew Talbot the back-up from the bench.

Thompson highlighted all of the attributes expected of him since his summer switch from Swindon.

He was aggressive, tough into the tackle and his positioning was also near faultless throughout.

At left ful-back, Damien McCrory put in a solid shift on his debut.

He sniffed out any danger that came his way and, first and foremost, made defending his main priority.

Jackett will want his full-backs to get forward in time.

But after just a second clean sheet of the season, it’s crucial the Blues tighten up their rearguard.