Attacking shortfalls for Portsmouth at Shrewsbury as jury remains out on playing two defensive midfielders

Sports writer Will Rooney picks out the talking points from Pompey's 1-0 defeat at Shrewsbury on day one of the new League One campaign...

Monday, 5th August 2019, 12:06 pm
Updated Monday, 5th August 2019, 12:29 pm
Ronan Curtis in action at Shrewsbury. Picture: Simon Davies

Attacking shortfalls

Recognising the hosts would play a wing-back system with three robust centre-halves, the boss emphasised exploiting the wings and getting crosses into the box.

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Ronan Curtis in action at Shrewsbury. Picture: Simon Davies

In the first half, Pompey carried out those instructions well, with the ball consistently being shifted out wide. 

Lee Brown was the only player who offered any sort of threat with his balls into the danger zone.

On two occasions, he forced home keeper Max O'Leary to make finger-tip saves and caused panic among Shrewsbury's rearguard. 

Ross McCrorie was sent off against Shrewsbury. Picture: Simon Davies

But for the rest of Jackett’s flankers, there was a dearth of significant penetration or threat. 

As lively as Ronan Curtis was down the right before the break, his crossing failed to pick out a man inside the box. 

Marcus Harness endeavoured on his debut, linking up well with Brown on occasions, but was unable to pierce the Shrews’ rearguard. 

Right-back Anton Walkes also couldn't make his mark, despite getting himself into several decent positions. 

Lee Brown was The News' man of the match at Shrewsbury. Picture: Simon Davies

Just one game into the season, there’s no reason to panic as of yet and Pompey have the players to deliver in the final third. 

But Jackett will be demanding things do swiftly improve. 

 

Jury out on two defensive midfielders

It's been a question that was fairly prominent throughout the pre-season programme: can Tom Naylor and Ross McCrorie play alongside each other?

The final friendly at Crawley suggested that was Kenny Jackett’s favoured central-midfield partnership.

That’s despite both being defensively-minded, with both Naylor and McCrorie previously operating at centre-back earlier in their careers.

Jackett feels at the right times the pair can operate together.

But against a side which was set up in a 5-3-2 formation, Pompey lacked someone who could dictate the ball in the engine room.

To Naylor’s credit, he was one of the visitors’ best performers, particularly in the first half.

The former Burton man stole possession on several occasions and spread the ball to the flanks as required. 

But after an encouraging summer campaign, McCrorie couldn’t stamp his authority on the New Meadow fixture

Bar an early snap-shot, which was relatively comfortable for the Shrewsbury keeper, the Rangers loanee’s performance culminated in a sending off for a second yellow card. 

In truth, the Blues missed someone with the passing control of Ben Close or the thrust of Andy Cannon.

Away from home, against a side who play on the front foot, it’s fairly logical to partner Naylor and McCrorie together and hit teams on the counter-attack. 

But facing opponents who’re happier to sit back then that added attacking threat from the middle may need to be required.

 

Rearguard remains resolute

Ryan Giles' wonder strike was the only shot on target Shrewsbury had throughout the clash.

And given the events that proceeded the Wolves loanee’s effort, that appeared the only way Sam Ricketts’ men would make a breakthrough.

The Shrews mustered only three shots on goal throughout the 90 minutes.

Except for swallowing up a few balls that went into the box, Craig MacGillivray had a relatively comfortable afternoon.

Coming up against a front two in the pacy Fejiri Okenabirhie and the experienced Steve Morison, Pompey snuffed out their threat relatively comfortably. 

Despite the summer loses of Matt Clarke and Nathan Thompson, early impressions demonstrate the Blues will cope without the pair.

Paul Downing's began his Fratton Park career in sound fashion, continuing on from the eye-catching form he was in at Doncaster last term.

The former Blackburn defender’s forged a sound partnership with Christian Burgess, who also was comfortable throughout.

An opening-day clean sheet was denied because of Giles' superb goal but the overall rearguard display bodes well for the rest of the campaign.