Wilson’s Wisdom: Anti-football in League Two is not worthy of praise

A frustrated Kyle Bennett applauds the travelling Pompey fans after the Blues are held to a 0-0 draw by Crawley   Picture: Joe Pepler
A frustrated Kyle Bennett applauds the travelling Pompey fans after the Blues are held to a 0-0 draw by Crawley Picture: Joe Pepler
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For 90 minutes, I knew how Arsene Wenger must feel every weekend in the Premier League.

Watching Pompey’s midweek 0-0 draw at Crawley Town was a frustrating experience for those who want to appreciate attacking, flowing football.

In case you didn’t see it or were unaware of what happened, basically, Crawley parked the bus.

Then they clamped all of the wheels just to make sure.

It was the most negative display of anti-football I have witnessed from a home team in my years of covering Pompey.

This wasn’t a plucky non-league club drawn at Old Trafford in the FA Cup third round.

And it wasn’t San Marino trying to keep the score down against England at Wembley.

Pompey aren’t Barcelona.

Most teams still attempt to do that to stop Arsenal and it’s up to them to find a way through.

Even in the Premier League when the Blues came up against Wenger’s Arsenal or Manchester United at the height of their powers, they never stuck 11 men behind the ball with no intention of ever launching a counter-attack.

There have been times when I’ve seen Pompey adopt an overly cautious mentality and it frustrated me then as well.

During Paul Hart’s reign, Pompey had a wealth of attacking players but he refused to let them off the leash.

Under Richie Barker, 1-0 was the Holy Grail of a scoreline. If that meant a few 0-0 draws in there, he seemed perfectly happy with that.

Was it fear? Was it the circumstances of trying to avoid relegation?

Even if it was the latter, wins tend to see you fly up the table much more quickly than draws.

Anyway, it angered me that a team playing on their home ground in the third game of a season in League Two would use those stifling tactics.

It also made me cringe when the home fans then applauded their team off as if they had won the Champions League.

Let’s be honest – if that is the way a team chooses to play, then that is entirely up to them.

But if that is a regular way of playing, I’m just thankful I don’t have to watch it very often.

Their manager felt it was the right thing to do. He obviously feels his side will be involved in a relegation battle this season and didn’t fancy this particular fight against Pompey.

In boxing terms, his team legged it round the ring for 12 rounds.

Is it fair to criticise another team for the way they choose to play?

Well, I think it is.

Pompey were frequently booed off under Barker for their lack of enterprise. I didn’t like it at all.

So if I’d been a Crawley fan, I’d have been disgusted and wouldn’t be forking out to watch that every week.

Fratton Park demands that their teams at least have a go at beating the opposition. Even AC Milan.

At Fratton Park, I would expect that from Crawley. I also expect it from plenty of other visiting teams this season who want to stop Paul Cook’s side from tearing them apart. Fair enough.

But if that is regarded as a cause for jubilation in front of your home supporters then something is seriously wrong.