Final verdict: Neil Allen answers questions on the problems encountered by Portsmouth for Cambridge United's visit to Fratton Park

Chief sports writer Neil Allen was quizzed on the problems – both on and off the pitch – which beset Pompey at the weekend.

Monday, 20th September 2021, 3:36 pm
Updated Monday, 20th September 2021, 3:38 pm

Here’s what he had to say on the Blues’ 1-0 defeat against Cambridge and the issues fans encountered as they attempted to get into the ground before kick-off..

Q It’s been a tough couple of days for the club with three apologies issued – one from the club itself, Danny Cowley and then chief executive Andy Cullen. And with that, you get the sense that there’s a lot of hard work going on behind the scenes to rectify issues both on and off the pitch.

Yeah, it was a messy day Saturday, wasn't it.

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We had several power cuts in the press box as well and we all saw pictures of what was going on outside the ground, with big queues of people trying to get in.

And then when people did get into the stadium, they perhaps would have wished they hadn't have bothered because It was a poor performance from Pompey, an awful result and it is a worrying period in terms of purely football.

But off the pitch there’s also plenty to be concerned about with fans struggling to get into the stadium.

And with the Plymouth game coming up next fans have to get in with paper tickets because it has been rescheduled, so it's not on the (season ticket) cards.

Pompey midfielder Ryan Tunnicliffe holds his head in his hands after Saturday's 1-0 defeat against Cambridge United.

There’s all sorts going on at the moment so it's a troubled time.

Q The match-day experience is clearly something that sits highly on Pompey’s priority list, but they appear to be struggling to deliver it. Why is that?

The club have obviously said that they were dictated when they could stage fans at games again so they’re playing catch up.

It looks like, initially, they were also going to be doing catering in house, but they are now changing their mind so they want to take it out of house.

So there's all sorts going on at the moment and it's a bit of a baptism of fire for Andy Cullen who's just come in with all these issues.

You'd imagine a few weeks down the line all of this will be rectified and we won't mention it anymore but at the moment clearly it's awful.

We can't quite see the North Stand from the press box but we can see the Fratton End and there were an awful lot of fans coming in late during the match, you could see it, it was obvious.

So we were aware of the problems there, but it's not good enough for the football club.

Clearly communication was an issue, the fans weren’t told how to use these new machines, these new turnstiles to get into the ground and perhaps there should’ve been a video instruction or whatever.

I'm sure the club have looked into that and acknowledge that as well.

Communication is so important and as a result it was another mess.

We saw it earlier in the season with queues and ticketing issues and fans getting tickets and all that – and I think we’ll have it more tomorrow night to be honest.

But hopefully it can be sorted because it's ridiculous at the moment.

Q As mention, Danny Cowley apologised for the performance against Cambridge United and was no doubt influenced by the boos that were heard inside Fratton Park at the final whistle. But were Pompey that bad?

It was a really poor performance.

(But) I don't get the hysteria of it being one of the worst football performances I’ve ever seen that I keep reading.

It wasn’t a horrific performance and we've seen plenty worse over the years in different divisions away from Fratton Park – it wasn’t a horrific performance.

Pompey dominated the game, they dominated the ball, they dictated possession, but they didn't create anything.

That's why it was a bad performance. They didn’t create, they didn't use the ball effectively, they had two shots the whole game on target – two of them!

There were so few you could remember what they were – (Ronan) Curtis' goal and (George) Hirst’s turn and tame shot at the keeper, that was it.

They didn’t have the creativity to break Cambridge down, and again we saw incidences like that during Paul Cook's seasons where sides would pack the penalty area and (Pompey would have to) try and break them down and struggle, we've seen that before.

So it wasn’t the worst display ever in the history of Pompey football club which I keep reading from people.

It was a bad performance not horrendous, not horrific, just a bad performance and it was bad because they couldn’t effectively use the ball.

All the possession they had and the amount of chances they created was pitiful. The players deserved to be fully criticised for that.

It's not good enough, there's goalscoring problems as we know in this team and that contributed to Cambridge's first ever win at Fratton Park – a poor, poor performance.

Q Creativity is still a major problem but does Danny Cowley really have options on the sidelines to really change things, especially up front, if certain players aren’t living up to expectations?

He’s got plenty of options, it's a big enough squad.

The trouble is they’re tried and trusted options. Perhaps not trusted – they’re tried and tired options is perhaps a better phrase.

So again we’re back into the whole thing of: does Marquis play up front? Does Harrison play up front? Do they both play up front? What are we going to do with those?

We’ve talked about that week after week, season after season, year after year – it’s going back to try and get a tune out of players who haven’t performed well consistently at this football club.

But let's not also forget Curtis and (Marcus) Harness on the flanks – they've not pushed over the last year, which is a bit frustrating.

They’ve not started the season well and again they were meant to be providing creativity and they haven’t.

And once more they’ve been here for a few years – 2019 for Harness, 2018 for Curtis.

So we know they’re tried, trusted, tired options. We know what they are so we just keep reverting back to the same arguments, the same debates.

He (Cowley) has got options in that squad. Not necessarily on the wings, for me – I think there's a dearth of options on the wing.

His only other options are (Reeco) Hackett-Fairchild and (Michael) Jacobs, so that's an issue.

But John Marquis could well be recalled on Tuesday and we are in that situation where it’s a vicious circle. We've been here a while.

He could mix it up, (Miguel) Azeez, he could drop him or he could play him can’t he.

He could put (Joe) Morrell in and he could do something with Louis Thompson, go wing-backs – but that might be an issue at the moment with the centre-half injuries.

But he’s got the flexibility, he’s got the options.

But he needs to do something because at the moment they’re just stuttering a long and it's really frustrating to watch.

Q Only five of Saturday’s starting XI were Danny Cowley signings. Do you think this is ‘his team’ yet or is he still being held back/hampered by players he inherited?

Yeah he is. Again, it's a thing we've discussed many times.

He’s got Harness, he's got Curtis, he's got Harrison and he's got Marquis who have been here for a number of years and they’re the main attacking players to choose from.

Hirst is an option as well, but he's not scored any goals at this level and is still inexperienced.

So he (Cowley) is definitely hampered by players already here, but they’re good players.

To say hampered is perhaps an insult to those players.

They’re talented players at this level, we’ve seen them score goals, we’ve seen them create, they will have their moments – but it's just that consistency in getting the best out of them on a regular basis.

We’re not seeing that in any of them at the moment.

The most consistent player this season for me has been Sean Raggett.

And the fans are recognising that because no-one's moaning about that at the moment.

But Sean Raggett has been outstanding, hasn’t he.

The problems are further up the pitch and I know you can moan at who plays in defence, but it doesn’t matter.

The issues are further up the pitch. It doesn’t matter who is left-back, right back, centre-half – further forward is the problem.