Expect another Portsmouth rip up against Sunderland as Kenny Jackett scrambles to save promotion bid

After the Northampton horrow show, Pompey's starting line-up for the visit of Sunderland requires another rip up.

Monday, 8th March 2021, 2:49 pm
Updated Monday, 8th March 2021, 3:30 pm

Certainly, the Blues boss is entitled to wield the axe following the worst opening 45 minutes in modern Fratton Park history.

To ship four first-half goals was abject and abysmal, especially considering the calibre of opposition that was the relegation-threatened Cobblers.

In fairness, there were few complaints about the team that was named at Sixfields after the insipid 2-1 loss to Doncaster four days prior.

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John Marquis was back leading the line after his Keepmoat consolation and George Byers was handed just a second start since arriving on loan from Swansea in January.

Even before it emerged Haji Mnoga had suffered a groin injury, the call to play Jack Whatmough as a makeshift right-back appeared the correct one. Mnoga had been culpable for the first goal at Donny while James Bolton wasn't fit enough to start.

But after the dire Northampton loss, Jackett’s now back to the drawing board, scrambling around for another formula to galvanise his team from the current malaise.

With Pompey coming up the home straight of the season, it's a concern that the manager is nowhere near to knowing or deciding what his best team is.

Jordy Hiwula could make his first Pompey league start against Sunderland. Picture: Dennis Goodwin

That's at odds with Jackett’s mantra of finding a settled line-up capable of building the confidence and impetus required for promotion.

It’s hard to disagree the strongest the Blues have been during Jackett's tenure was the first half of the 2018-19 season.

With Pompey top of the table and hurtling towards the Championship, fans scarcely needed to check the team news at 2pm.

Everyone knew that, providing there were no injuries, it would be the same XI setting up in a 4-2-3-1 formation featuring the likes of Matt Clarke, Nathan Thompson, Jamal Lowe and Ben Thompson.

Each player's role was defined, allowing the necessary partnerships and rapports to build.

However, that hasn't been the case certainly since the turn of the new year.

Accruing just 17 points from a possible 39, the Blues have gone from league leaders to teetering on the edge of the play-offs.

Injuries have been a part of the problems, particularly to Callum Johnson and Michael Jacobs.

But key players' form has also jettisoned at the same time.

Marquis, Ronan Curtis and Marcus Harness haven't been operating at the peak of their powers for a while.

Meanwhile, the likes of Tom Naylor, Andy Cannon and Sean Raggett's performance levels have also dropped following the festive period.

For the crunch visit of Sunderland, the changes simply have to be rung again.

Bolton will come back into the side for Rasmus Nicolaisen, who had an afternoon to forget at Sixfields, and allow Whatmough to shuffle back into central defence.

Surely Ryan Williams will also be under consideration for a recall after being left on the bench against Northampton.

Maybe we'll even finally see Jordy Hiwula handed a maiden league start after successive lively cameos.

There might even be a temptation to throw Michael Jacobs straight into the deep end, although that's unlikely given he's returning from a hamstring injury.

One thing is certain – Jackett needs to quickly find the right team that'll spark Pompey's promotion bid back into life.