Kenny Jackett's defence admission - but stats show it's the forwards letting Portsmouth down on the road

Pompey did their best to thwart League One’s most potent attacking threat on Saturday.

Monday, 9th March 2020, 4:24 pm
Updated Monday, 9th March 2020, 4:24 pm

But just like eight previous away trips in the division this season, their best wasn’t good enough as Peterborough ran out convincing 2-0 winners at London Road.

The scoreline could have been a lot worse had it not been for the man-of-the-match display provided by goalkeeper Alex Bass.

Meanwhile, who knows what the outcome would have been had Christian Burgess – Pompey’s best defender this term – not been sat at home serving the first of his two-match ban.

Sign up to our Portsmouth FC newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Yet, regardless of the centre-back’s absence and Bass’ heroics, there’s no getting away from the fact that the Blues’ away form has let them down this season.

Saturday’s defeat was their ninth in the third tier this campaign – the worst out of all the teams currently in the play-off places.

Actually, make that the least impressive number of away losses for all the teams presently occupying a top-half position in the table – even Gillingham and Burton, 11th and 12th respectively, haven’t lost that many.

Hardly the kind of statistic we all thought was possible when Pompey chalked up a club-record 20 away wins in all competitions last season and a record-breaking 13 victories on the road in the league, with only four defeats suffered.

Pompey boss Kenny Jackett during Saturday's 2-0 defeat at Peterborough. Picture: Simon Davies

And hardly form that will scare the life out of their main rivals for promotion this term.

By the way, Kenny Jackett’s side are yet to pick up a point, never mind a win, from any of the sides currently in the top six.

Yes, they've still got Rotherham and Oxford left to play.

But defeats at Sunderland, Coventry and now Peterborough will do little to breed confidence that that statistic is about to be overturned.

Ronan Curtis' last goal, home or away, came in the 2-0 win at Lincoln on April 28 - the same day as John Marquis' last league goal away from Fratton Park

So where has it gone wrong for the Blues away from the home comforts of Fratton Park this season, where they are yet to suffer a league loss this term?

I’d love to be able to answer that myself and offer some clues to away stats that threaten to derail Pompey’s pursuit of Championship football for another year at least.

But why should I when Jackett himself made a frank admission at the recent News Pompey Fans’ Forum in the Victory Lounge at PO4.

The manager, along with chief executive Mark Catlin, was quizzed on all-things Pompey by a gathering of around 180 fans at the end of last month.

Nothing was out of bounds, no topic was off the agenda.

So the chance to get his thoughts on why the Blues’ away form had been consistently letting them down was never going to missed.

And so it was asked with the penultimate question of the night.

Jackett initially admitted that he couldn’t put his finger on a record that now stands at P17 W5 D3 L9.

However, he soon came to a telling conclusion – that defensively this season his side are simply not as resolute enough for his liking.

When asked the pertinent question, Jackett said: 'I can't necessarily put my finger on it.

‘Our away form was so good last year.

‘I do think probably, when you are looking at away games, the defending is more important.

‘You perhaps get less decisions.

‘We were very resilient (last season), and a lot of our away wins – and it was a record wins last year – were back-to-the wall games where we had to defend.

‘But we haven't been as resolute in terms of our defending (this season), I don't think.

‘And that's been quite a big key.

‘We've lost the Coventry game, we've lost the Fleetwood game and we've been close in both games.

‘But close isn't good enough.

‘You know, if we can turn it around then fine.

‘But I do feel, though, defensively sometimes, we were a little bit stronger last year.’

There’s no doubt Pompey, this year, are not as strong defensively on paper following the key departures of Matt Clarke and Nathan Thompson over the summer.

Yet the manager’s pinpointing of a less resolute defence did prompt a bit of digging, which provided a few eye-catching pieces of data that goes against his theory.

Yes, the Blues’ form on the road is less than impressive – we all know that – with Jackett & Co sitting a paltry 11th in the away table, compared to a second-place rating for home points gathered.

But should that be entirely down to a defence that struggles to match the challenges put in front of them?

Pompey have conceded 21 goals away from home in the league this season.

That puts them in a better position than Rotherham (22), Oxford (24) and Peterborough (27) when compared to teams presently in the top six.

But with Sunderland (17) and Coventry (19) performing better, plus the likes of Doncaster (14), Ipswich (18), Gillingham (17), Blackpool and Wycombe (both 18) also topping the Blues’ defensive record, there’s clearly room for improvement.

However, that defensive performance doesn’t set alarm bells ringing quite as much as the goal-for stats on the road.

Pompey’s record of 17 strikes away from home sees them sit second from last when comparing them to their play-off-placed and automatic-positioned rivals.

They have failed to register in their past three away outings and only Sunderland, from the top six, have scored fewer (13).

Yet, when you consider that Burton (31), Fleetwood (24), Ipswich (23), Doncaster, AFC Wimbledon, Southend (all 21) and Rochdale have been more prolific in front of goal on the road, then surely greater attention should be placed on the Blues’ attacking prowess, or lack of it away from Fratton Park, instead of their defensive capabilities.