Pompey Q&A: Neil Allen’s verdict on Portsmouth’s play-off hopes, half-time tunnel incident at Oxford United, Free agents, Michael Jacobs and much more

Despite a spirited performance on Saturday, Pompey were the victim of a 3-2 defeat to the hands of Oxford United.

By Pepe Lacey
Monday, 7th February 2022, 3:30 pm

Blues reporter Pepe Lacey is joined by chief sports writer Neil Allen to discuss the key talking points from an incident-packed afternoon at the Kassam Stadium.

Here’s what he had to say.

Q Pompey might have suffered a last-gasp defeat at the Kassam Stadium, but there were plenty of positives to take away from the peformance, wasn’t there.

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If you were present at the game, listened to it on the radio or watched it on iFollow, you’ll know it was a really battling, gutsy, defiant Pompey display.

Obviously, Pompey lost, they lost in the sixth minute of time added on, but the actual display – considering they spent 74 minutes plus 10 minutes of time added on with 10 men – was superb. As a team they stuck together.

Ronan Curtis and Michael Jacobs, not only were they involved with the two goals, but they were getting back and defending. Superb.

As a team, it’s what you want from players, backs to the wall stuff no doubt about that.

Neil Allen gives his verdict on Pompey's play-off hopes, Oxford United defeat, Michael Jacobs and more.

I’ve seen some idiotic Oxford fans say they dominated possession – but you are against 10 men for 74 minutes play, they were going to dominate possession.

Pompey weren’t going to dominate possession with 10 men from the 16th minute.

It was only through a leveller in the 82nd minute and six minutes into time added on that Oxford finally broke them down, but it was superb from Pompey.

I just don’t get people who moan about the performance, having a go at the team and moaning at losing again, just look at the performance.

It was superb. We know they lost but you have to give credit to the team when players do something good, surely!

Otherwise there’s no point following football is there?

Full credit to Danny Cowley and his team on the day.

Q The big talking point from the afternoon was the incident in the tunnel at half-time. There's been some more developments today, what do you know about that?

It was interesting, there was so much going on on Saturday and one of those was the announcement that the second half would be delayed.

We saw two policemen leave the tunnel eventually, there were stretcher staff and medical staff seen entering the tunnel.

Clearly something happened at half-time when both teams came off.

It was later explained that it was a medical incident because Oxford put that over the Tannoy and their Twitter feed and then it was later claimed that it was a member of the support staff who fell and banged his head and needed hospital treatment.

We know that happened and we were told that.

Despite the rumours and people making up stuff, it was not a medical incident involving a fan in the crowd.

It was not a Pompey fan who ran from that section in the far corner of the ground, across the pitch, to get into the tunnel to get into an altercation with the referee or someone from Oxford - It had nothing to do with them.

In terms of what actually happened, we don’t know for sure, let’s not get into speculation, but having contacted the FA this morning they are investigating what happened.

Presumably, by now they would’ve received the referee’s report as well.

The FA aren’t being too chatty about it but they are looking at it and investigating it because there were a lot of things going on – like the medical incident plus the referee’s performance, but that will be separate.

The main thing they will look at is what happened in the tunnel at half-time.

Q The turning point in the game was Joe Morrell’s red card early on. With midfield options really limited now, will we see Jay Mingi brought into the frame and could we see Cowley delve into the free-agent market?

Cowley could venture into the free agent market but those player's wages have to be paid.

There is a bit of miscommunication and misunderstanding of the wage situation as Cowley explained on Saturday that Pompey increased their wage bill in January.

Obviously, they got rid of John Marquis and Ellis Harrison which saved them some money but they also brought in Tyler Walker from Coventry who we believe is now the top-earner.

They’ve moved around the budget so is there room in the budget for a free agent considering they wanted quality over quantity in the window?

Is there much money left? We’ll wait and find out but there doesn’t appear to be at the moment.

That was Cowley’s policy - he wanted quality over quantity hence the squad of 20 at the moment.

The injuries have been wretched.

Williams was massively unfortunate to fracture his spine; you then have Freeman who bizarrely developed concussion and a twisted ankle at the same time so he’s out; Morrell is out on a three-match ban pending an appeal – and it’s unfortunately all happening at once for a small playing squad.

Perhaps Mingi might get called in.

Pompey also have a match at Stoneham on Wednesday night which could be a good time to play Mingi so we might see him involved then.

We’ll have to wait and see because they may have picked up more injuries that we don’t know about.

There's so much going on at the moment and the small size of this playing squad and the midfield situation has come back to bite them.

They have Thompson, who struggles to play 90 minutes and Tunnicliffe, who had his first appearance on Saturday in the league for the first time since the end of October.

Suddenly they’re the only available central midfielders.

Q Despite the negatives surrounding Fratton Park, there is a bright spark – Michael Jacobs. Do you think we’ll see him on Tuesday night against Burton and will he carry his form over following his standout performance on Saturday?

Everyone wanted him in the team on Saturday.

It’s not often that Pompey fans agree on something but everyone agreed he should be in the starting line-up for not just Oxford but for previous games as well.

He fully justified that, he was man-of-the-match.

Not only was it the goal and assist he claimed but his work rate as well.

Him and Ronan Curtis getting back to help out the full-backs and that was optimized by Jacobs.

Absolutely superb from him.

We know he’s Pompey’s most creative player in the squad.

It's just getting him out onto the pitch and giving him a go because, incredibly, Saturday was only his second start in the league of the season, which is bizarre when you think about it.

Cowley selected him ahead of top-scorer Marcus Harness, but Harness has dropped off big time in the last month.

Jacobs was superb and he’ll give him another go.

Again, there’ll be concern for players playing three times in eight days, which will be happening quite often from now on, but hopefully Jacobs can be alright because he is a key performer and clearly very popular with the Pompey fans.

Q Pompey take on Burton on Tuesday and have a decent run of games ahead. With 14 points the gap to the play-offs, is there any chance they can sneak into the top six by the end of the season?

Not a chance!

Pompey are too far behind, they aren’t consistently good enough as a team, they don’t score enough.

We always knew it was going to be a transitional season where you are overhauling a squad and looking to the next year.

We are looking to next season, we are counting down the games to the end of the season so they can start fresh.

Last year they finished eighth and missed out on the play-offs, this year I can’t see them finishing as high as that.