Why Portsmouth will need different plan of attack against Wycombe

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When Shrewsbury visited Fratton Park earlier this month, their game plan was abundantly clear.

John Askey clearly set his side up to frustrate the Blues by not allowing them to breathe, steadfastly sticking to the likes of Andre Green and Jamal Low – particularly in the first half.

Pompey boss Kenny Jackett. Picture: Joe Pepler

Pompey boss Kenny Jackett. Picture: Joe Pepler

The Shrews’ aim was to try to clinch a goalless draw and possibly net from a set-piece or capitalise on a Blues mistake.

As it turned out, Christian Burgess’ error gifted the visitors their only shot on target – and it was snaffled away by Greg Docherty.

Luckily, substitute Brett Pitman’s late penalty earned the home side a point and maintained their unbeaten start to the campaign.

However, Shrewsbury laid down an early blueprint on how teams could get a result at Fratton Park this term.

Granted, it was the first points Kenny Jackett’s side dropped on their own patch.

But it still highlighted how Pompey’s attacking prowess and explosiveness can be nullified.

Kenny Jackett’s men thrive when they hit sides on the break, swarm their opponents with pace and get into one-v-one situations – as displayed in wins over Oxford United and Plymouth. 

There was a dearth of that against the Shrews. 

Wycombe Wanderers visit PO4 on Saturday and boss Gareth Ainsworth will no doubt have studied Pompey’s draw against Shrewsbury during his pre-match preparations. 

After achieving promotion from League Two last term, the Chairboys currently sit 19th in the table  – and no doubt their main target in the third tier will be survival.

With only a solitary league victory recorded to date, every point will prove precious – especially at the league leaders.

If Pompey have serious automatic promotion ambitions, being able to decipher the so-called lesser teams at home and unlock their rearguards will be key.

When Paul Cook’s Blues suffered play-off heartbreak at Plymouth in the 2015-16 season, they dropped a total of 32 points at Fratton Park.

Pompey won 10, drew seven and lost six games in total, meaning they missed out on automatic promotion. 

That’s a record that cannot be repeated if Championship football is to be achieved this campaign. 

If Shrewsbury’s set-up is going to be imitated by teams of similar standing, switching personnel could be one remedy.

Tom Naylor has been the experienced enforcer shielding the Blues’ defence since arriving from Burton in the summer.

His performance in the 2-1 win at Peterborough was tenacious and dogged, helping repel a potent home attack.

In games against promotion rivals and on the road, Naylor will be one of the first names on the team sheet.

Overall, he’s made a big impact and added nous to the middle of the park. 

But when sides are setting up for a point at Fratton Park, there’s an argument that a defensive-minded midfielder screening the back four is not required. 

Ben Close and Ben Thompson have been battling for a berth in Jackett’s engine room alongside Naylor and Gareth Evans. 

Yet they could well compliment each other’s game if given the chance. 

The former keeps and spreads the ball adeptly, while Thompson has plenty of bite and can get things going. 

Another could be switch to a 3-5-2 formation, although utilising wing-backs may upset the balance of the side that has yielded six victories and two draws to date. 

Pompey aren’t going to win every home game this campaign and there will be some bumps along the way. 

But to avoid a repeat of the Shrewsbury performance, a different plan of attack from Jackett may be required.