Individual defensive mistakes, attacking impotency and players losing their heads: let’s be honest, Portsmouth’s season is going only one way at the moment

Individual defensive mistakes, attacking impotency and Portsmouth players losing their heads. That’s the take homes from a dispiriting defeat at Burton, in which the Blues’ well-defined issues became deeper entrenched. Here’s the final verdict.

Wednesday, 29th September 2021, 12:25 pm
Updated Wednesday, 29th September 2021, 1:01 pm
Danny Cowley (Photo by Daniel Chesterton/

Toothless gurning

In the end, two shots separated the sides on the count.

That’s because of a late flurry from Pompey, which narrowed a sizeable chasm to 14 Burton efforts on goal to the visitor’s 12.

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But did anyone really have any conviction the faux charge would ever reap a tangible reward? Not for a second.

Louis Thompson flashed a deflected effort over the top and Ellis Harrison appealed for a penalty, but after two games which spoke of some promise in terms of performance the impetus evaporated at the Pirelli.

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The fact of the matter is they managed to work Brewers keeper Ben Garratt once from open play.

Once more this against a team, who like Pompey’s previous opponents, were ripe for the picking after seven winless games.

His travails are well defined, yet John Marquis made a reasonable stab at the first-half header which represented that singular effort created, before Reeco Hackett-Fairchild crashed home his excellent second-half free-kick.

However deep Marquis’ struggles, there’s little the striker can do without the opportunity. And it was Pompey’s inability to carve out openings which was the key deficiency over missing gilt-edged chances this time.

A recurring theme

In the past two games you could level an argument the defensive mishaps have arrived from players out of position.

Shaun Williams and Kieron Freeman have been the men culpable for the individual errors which led to two goals being shipped against both Plymouth and Charlton.

Yes, Williams has a bank of 100 games in the back line at MK Dons to fall back on, but that experience is now six years in the past – and he is a midfielder by trade, no doubt.

Meanwhile, Kieron Freeman had only very flimsy experiences of doing likewise, with his background ostensibly operating as a wing-back.

But at Burton the players under the microscope were men with intimate knowledge of their playing positions.

Lee Brown’s short pass was ruthlessly exposed for the opener, as Pompey played out from the back in the manner Danny Cowley demands.

Then it was Tom Hamer who turned over possession as he mugged Mahlon Romeo, with Daniel Jebbison ruthlessly seizing on the opportunity.

You can look at the individual on both occasions, but, certainly with the second, there has to be a degree of culpability from team-mates who left the Millwall loanee out to dry with few passing options. The lack of in-field ball or offer of an angle from Freeman was evident.

Whichever way you slice it, there’s no chance of things improving all the time such deficiencies are prevalent.

Head loss

Danny Cowley has spoken previously over concern surrounding the manner in which his players respond to adversity.

The evidence was there at the Pirelli that remains an issue which requires attention.

Pompey went from barely conceding a foul against Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s side, to almost completing losing the plot late on as they went in search of a leveller.

Against Plymouth last week, a couple of unnecessary yellow cards were picked up for challenges deep in the visitor’s half, but it felt as though it was a price worth paying as the moments raised the intensity and temperature of the home crowd.

Perhaps the Blues went too far the other way, with the foul count reading two to the visitors and 20 to Burton deep in the second half.

Then came four cautions in nine minutes at the end as frustrations boiled over.

It spoke of a lack of discipline from Cowley’s side, and gave the home just the invite they needed to scuffle and slow down the game as Pompey found another way to hinder their performance.

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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