Concerning lack of goal threat is now masking Portsmouth potential after unbeaten start is surrendered at Wigan Athletic

Pompey surrendered their unbeaten start to the season at Wigan on Saturday. Here’s the final verdict on what unfolded at the DW Stadium.

Monday, 30th August 2021, 1:13 pm
Updated Monday, 30th August 2021, 1:18 pm

Looking for a goal

It’s now 268 minutes since Ryan Tunnicliffe struck early to secure victory over Shrewsbury.

And that wait for a goal is now becoming the central concern to Pompey and their hopes of building on a decent start to the League One campaign.

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But across 90 minutes at the DW Stadium, the Blues failed to carve out any gilt-edged chances on their toughest assignment of the season to date.

An early Sean Raggett header hacked away from the line by Tendayi Darikwa and a 25th-minute shot from Ronan Curtis, which Tom Naylor blocked, was the slim pickings when it came to the chances.

Pompey suffered their first league loss at the DW Stadium. Picture: Daniel Chesterton/phcimages.com)

Pompey’s 0.8 expected goals to Wigan’s 0.5 was perhaps a more accurate reflection of 90 minutes where clear chances were at a premium.

Eyes are now on John Marquis, with it one goal in six this term from the striker.

That return isn’t good enough and the front man isn’t bringing enough threat or presence leading the line.

But it wouldn’t be fair to lay Pompey’s lack of finishes squarely at the door of the 29-year-old.

Cowley’s side failed to man the supply lines well enough for the £1m signing, with a lack of quality in their final execution.

It’s clear a new striker is a priority for the Blues boss before the close of the window.

George Hirst and Ellis Harrison are also currently in the ranks. We’ll see how things look beyond 11pm tomorrow, but the need to freshen up the forward line with trips to AFC Wimbledon and MK Dons to come is an obvious consideration.

Pompey potential

The result didn’t go Pompey’s way against Wigan, but there were positives to take from the encounter.

What was abundantly apparent on the toughest assignment of the season to date, was these are two sides doused in League One potential.

There was an air of quality to both teams at the DW Stadium, as they went about their business.

And the fact Danny Cowley’s side marginally had the better of proceedings for long periods is an undoubted reason to be cheerful.

Leam Richardson has assembled a high-quality squad after being well backed by Bahraini cash since their summer takeover.

That was apparent in the game’s defining moment, as Republic of Ireland international James McClean left the bench after 54 minutes and changed the face of the game.

Up to that point it was Pompey who were asking the sterner questions, without ever putting the clash firmly in their grasp.

Cowley opted to employ Ryan Tunnicliffe, Joe Morrella and Shaun Williams together for the first time, and there was classy sheen to his side in the middle of the park.

Morrell looked a week stronger and fitter after a quiet full league debut against Doncaster, while Tunnicliffe was employed in a more advanced role.The jury is still out on whether the former Manchester United man is truly suited to the position, but using all three men certainly stiffens Pompey up centrally.

What isn’t up for debate is how important Williams has already become to Cowley’s side.

The former Millwall man was at the heart of Pompey’s best play with his prompting from his role in front of the back four.

At 34, we wait to see if he can be included on a continued basis, but it feels like the Irishman is already the first name on Cowley’s team sheet.

Fading questions

From the stands it felt it felt like the game’s key moment.

The introduction of James McClean’s quality from the bench swung the pendulum Wigan’s way as Pompey fell to their maiden league defeat.

The Republic of Ireland drove his team forward down the left and caused problems as he peppered the Blues’ box with quality deliveries.

When asked about McLean’s influence, Danny Cowley chose to look beyond the 32-year-old’s involvement as the deciding factor in his team’s defeat.

Instead, the 42-year-old felt the more pressing issue was how his team ran out of steam against Leam Richardson’s men.

There’s no doubt the home side got hold of the game through the latter stages and Pompey did look leggy.

The suspicion is that was more psychological rather than the side lacking in stamina.

With Callum Lang’s effort arriving 12 minutes from time, it was Wigan who were given the boost a goal gives.

It allowed them to finish stronger, as the visitors failed to wrest control of the game back.

Eyes will be on Pompey and how they fare through the latter stages of their forthcoming outings, to see if there’s a pattern emerging.

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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