The simple solution to Portsmouth's late goals dilemma and why Southend are perfect opponents to end those fears
It’s an ailment that threatens to derail Pompey’s season even further.
But there’s a simple remedy to the latest obstacle standing in the way of a Blues revival.
And tonight’s opponents, Southend, on paper represent the perfect candidates to test the medicine on.
The past three Saturday afternoons have witnessed Kenny Jackett’s side succumb to late goals and throw away much-needed league points.
Matty Taylor’s 90th-minute leveller for Oxford at the weekend saw salt added to wounds yet to heal following similar excruciating moments of pain delivered by Craig MacGillivray’s own goal at Bristol Rovers and Terell Thomas’ last-gasp winner for AFC Winbledon.
Those late interventions of 90 minutes and beyond have cost the Blues five points in total – points the Blues can ill-afford to throw away, especially after both Coventry and Wycombe also struck late this season to kick Pompey when they’re down.
A solution is needed before the psychological effects of such drama begins to set in.
And there’s no better way of countering the growing threat than taking it out on a Southend side with the worst defensive record in the Football League.
With 44 goals conceded in League One already this season, and 53 across all competition to date, the Shrimpers are a side whose vulnerability defensively is there for all to see.
Their 20 outings to date have resulted in just a solitary clean sheet – and with a goal difference of -28 in the third tier, it’s little wonder they sit second from bottom in the table.
New boss Sol Campbell has said he’s seen improvements in his side as he prepares to bring Southend to Fratton Park tonight, pointing to the single goal conceded in the Shrimpers’ 1-0 defeat to Sunderland at the Stadium of Light last time out.
But for Pompey to take the fear of conceding late out of the equation and get a grip of the debilitating situation for themselves, they must make the most of tonight’s visitors’ own shortcomings.
They must compound the self-doubt that probably still exists within the Southend ranks, irrespective of Campbell’s recent arrival, prey on their deep-seated vulnerability and score the goals that eradicates the problems of conceding late.
Easier said than done, I hear you say, given Pompey’s deficiencies in front of goal this term.
The 16 goals the Blues have scored in League One this season matches Southend’s tally, with only MK Dons (13), Shrewsbury (12) and Bolton (seven) scoring fewer.
Gareth Evans, Pompey’s top scorer in the league with four goals, is some way short of the 12 registered by the division’s joint-top scorers – Ivan Toney and Mo Eisa (both Peterborough).
Meanwhile, the fact that John Marquis – Jackett’s biggest signing in the summer – has more assists (four) than goals (two) in League One to date highlights further the Blues’ problems in the striking department.
There has been signs of progress in that department, though, in recent games.
Building on the display at Bristol Rovers, Saturday’s draw with Oxford saw Pompey looking far more fluid in attacking areas – even though it wasn’t rewarded with more than the one goal scored.
Marquis, Ronan Curtis, Evans and the ever-improving Ryan Williams linked up well and provided proof of what they have to offer as an attacking quartet.
And with Brett Pitman, Marcus Harness and Ellis Harrison all waiting in the wings, ready to kick-start their seasons, the fire-power exists to get the Blues out of their current slump.
All of the above will be champing at the bit to feature at some stage tonight against Southend.
And while Campbell will no doubt have imparted some of his defensive nous on the squad he inherited as his influence steadily grows – Pompey should see the game as the perfect opportunity to build some much-needed confidence, score goals and eliminate any defensive doubts as the clock ticks down.
It would be nice to see the Blues’ former FA Cup-winning manager succeed at Southend.
Yet, at this moment in time, Pompey have their own problems to sort.
It’s finally time for them to inflict pain on others.
Anything other than that tonight will be a tough pill to swallow.