The final verdict: poor penetration and defensive difficulties but finding a way against Altrincham is a Portsmouth plus

Pompey writer Jordan Cross gives the final verdict on the FA Cup win over Altrincham and looks at the key issues arising from the second-round tie.

Monday, 2nd December 2019, 11:45 am
Updated Monday, 2nd December 2019, 5:45 pm

Decisions, Decisions

A key issue in what was for large parts a lacklustre performance was undoubtedly poor decision making on Pompey’s part.

Jackett’s side often found themselves in promising positions against their non-league opponents but saw a mixture of poor decision-making or execution let them down.

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When they did get a shot on goal they too often failed to hit the target and, on occasions, found Alty keeper Tony Thompson on top form.

The likes of Ronan Curtis, John Marquis and Ellis Harrison couldn’t take first-half opportunities as the Blues racked up 18 shots on goal.

Kenny Jackett’s double change at half-time spoke of his unhappiness at what he was seeing, and he indicated his frustration at the lack of penetration afterwards.

You would expect more incisiveness from a league side against opposition three divisions lower down the league ladder.

Brett Pitman's fourth goal of the season earned Pompey a last-gasp FA Cup win over Altrincham. Picture: Joe Pepler

Get Physical

For the second game in a row, Pompey were given significant problems by the physicality of a non-league striker.

After Mark Beck gave the Blues back line all kinds of problems in the first-round victory at Harrogate, it was Jordan Hulme’s turn to give Kenny Jackett’s defence a buffeting.

Hulme will be a familiar figure to those who watched the Class of ‘92 documentary, following the Manchester United heroes of that era on their journey at Salford City.

Now in Alty colours, it wasn’t just the front man’s strength which caught the eye, with his movement and hard running also causing Pompey plenty of problems.

That culminated in the 29-year-old being pulled down by Christian Burgess with seven minutes remaining and the visitors subsequently levelling from the penalty spot.

But it’s the difficulty the defence had with the rough stuff which was noticeable – and that has to be addressed with rivals seemingly viewing it as an area where they can hurt the Blues.

Finding a Way

Amid the justifiable grounds for criticism of Pompey’s display, the fact they avoided what looked certain to be an unwanted mid-week replay in Manchester was a definite plus point.

That was thanks to Brett Pitman’s stoppage-time winner in the 94th minute with virtually the last kick of the game.

The fact Jackett’s men pulled the winner out of the bag is testament to the character they showed in pushing for the decisive goal until the death.

It was rough justice on the non-league side who learnt a harsh lesson about staying switched on from set-pieces, as Pitman ghosted in unopposed to at the back post to apply the final touch from Ellis Harrison’s flicked header across goal.

After being hurt by late goals on more than one occasion it was heartening for the boot to be on the other foot.

Similarly, the winner arriving from a set-piece was encouraging, with Jackett previously highlighting it’s an area where there is significant room for improvement.

The stats now say one defeat in 13, unbeaten in eight and fives wins on the spin.

Whatever way you slice it, that’s impressive numbers.