From Luton Town to League One's Stevie G, Manchester City sweeper keeper and an indomitable Portsmouth warrior - plenty to learn from Shrewsbury Town success
The third league win on the spin and a move to the top of the table – there was also much to learn from the Shrewsbury Town success.
A different kind of win
On Saturday, Pompey showcased an ability to win with a flourish against Crewe.
The high press Danny Cowley is so keen to become a signifier of his side was evident, along with some free-flowing football at times - clearly exemplified in both goals.
Yes, Cowley’s men dominated possession and looked largely dominant for long periods of the game.
But with the second goal not arriving, the visitors grew more purposeful and come the last 10 minutes, plus an additional 11 minutes of stoppage time, it was Steve Cotterill’s side asking the questions.
Pompey withstood the barrage of crosses, angled balls and physicality being thrown at them, to show they can do the ugly, dirty staff - and gain another box-tick of their credentials at this formative stage of the season.
Danny Cowley talks about formations not counting the keeper in football.
To the Pompey head coach his men play a 1-4-2-3-1 formation, a nod to the fact he wants the man between the sticks to also be a playing asset, too.
That was glaringly obvious against Shrewsbury, as Gavin Bazunu’s default position was 15 yards outside of his penalty area for much of the evening.
The Republic of Ireland international was very much the archetypal sweeper keeper, prompting and being either a catalyst or conduit in a number of passages of play.
There was one first-half moment when the 19-year-old was a whisker from being caught out by Luke Leahy, with the ex-Bristol Rovers nearly intercepting a pass.
Perhaps what we’re seeing from Bazunu, though, goes some way to explaining why one of the division’s top keepers in Craig MacGillivray was allowed to leave, with it a stretch to see the excellent shot-stopper operating in such a way with the ball at feet.
It’s not cultured and it’s not expansive - but how Pompey needed a defensive warrior last night.
That man was Sean Raggett who stepped up with his latest outstanding display to play a crucial role in his side collecting three points.
There’s little doubt the former Norwich man has started the season with some of the best form of his Fratton career.
It was a near faultless performance from Raggett, but it was when Shrewsbury got on top at the end his true value came to the fore.
As Steve Cotterill’s side pumped balls into the box and the hulking presence of Sam Cosgrove lurked menacingly, it was Raggett’s head and body constantly on clearances.
With plenty of burly, physical sides around the division this season the importance of having that stoic, resolute attribute in Pompey's armoury shouldn’t be underestimated compared to the more appealing elements on show so far.
League One Stevie G
Everything Ryan Tunnicliffe touches turns to goals at present.
His maiden Pompey strike has supplemented three assists to ensure he’s played a central role in every league goal scored this term.
It’s an obvious and explicit insight into how the former Manchester United man has influenced this promising start to Pompey’s season.
But it’s the 28-year-old’s desire to grab a game by the scruff of the neck and drive proceedings with will, physicality and determination which has caught the eye.
These are the attributes many of the most dominant midfielders showcase at any level, including most memorably Steven Gerrard in his Liverpool pomp.
Even quite a heavy knock in the second half couldn't slow the Luton arrival down, as he against dominated.
With Sean Raggett and Clark Robertson in defence, Shaun Williams prompting and Joe Morrell waiting in the wings, Pompey spine’s is beginning to look a lot sturdier.
Many would say it’s Tunnicliffe who’s been the strongest vertebrae in that backbone so far.
A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron
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