Portsmouth apathy there for all to see as Blues lack killer instinct and playmaker against Gillingham

Sean Raggett headed against the post in Pompey's draw with Gillingham. Picture: Graham Hunt
Sean Raggett headed against the post in Pompey's draw with Gillingham. Picture: Graham Hunt
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Sports writer Will Rooney picks out the talking points from Pompey’s goalless draw with Gillingham on Saturday...

Lacking a natural conduit

It’s been a glaring problem that plenty have started to pick up on. 

Since the switch to a 4-4-2 formation, Tom Naylor and Ben Close have remained partners in the engine room.

Positionally, they’re both still operating as holding midfielders, though, meaning there was a gaping hole between Ellis Harrison and Brett Pitman.

Pompey have lacked a natural conduit between midfield and the front men, someone who can knit things together and help play move through the thirds. 

Gareth Evans forced a decent save out of Gills keeper Jack Bonham. Picture: Graham Hunt

Gareth Evans forced a decent save out of Gills keeper Jack Bonham. Picture: Graham Hunt

It led to the home side having to knock the ball around between the defence and midfield, with Gillingham more than happy to sit back, retain their shape and play for a point. 

Naylor was on the ball too much despite his remit being to police the middle of the park, while Close had another off-day.

In an attempt to remedy that problem, Pitman often dropped deep in search of the ball.

That goes against Kenny Jackett previously stating the forward hasn’t stayed in and around the box enough where he's most effective, however.

It also meant Harrison was isolated up front, with few options around him when he did get on the ball.

If Jackett is to continue with his 4-4-2 system and for it to work, then there’s a case that a box-to-box midfielder is a necessity.

When Andy Cannon replaced Close, he offered more attacking thrust and showed a willingness to drive at the Gillingham defence.

No killer instinct

Jack Bonham was by far the busier keeper at Fratton Park.

Nevertheless, it wasn’t like the Gillingham stopper produced a stellar performance that was worthy of winning his side a point.

In truth, Bonham made three decent saves, although he’d have been disappointed if he hadn’t kept them out.

Of Pompey’s 12 shots on goal, half of them arrived from outside the box.

Gareth Evans, Ben Close and Ellis Harrison had long-range attempts that were thwarted by Bonham.

But the Blues failed to seriously test the visiting keeper from close range.

Only once did Pompey have an attempt from inside the six-yard box – with Sean Raggett’s header crashing off the post in the first half.

In the second period, chances were few and far between. The best of them fell to Lee Brown in stoppage-time but he lacked the cutting edge and fired wide. 

Again the Blues’ forwards were starved of service, with the majority of opportunities stemming from set-pieces and wide areas.

Brett Pitman didn’t have one effort on goal before he was forced off with an injury, with Harrison only having a solitary attempt inside the box when heading over from a free-kick before the break. 

In truth, this season Pompey have scarcely unlocked the opposition with a killer pass that leads to a one-v-one scenario. 

Apathy there for all to see

When Pompey have been searching for late goals in the past, the roar of the Fratton faithful has driven the players on. 

The Blues weren’t afforded that support against Gillingham, however. 

Despite five minutes of stoppage-time being indicated, a decent amount of time to score, a significant number of fans had already seen enough.

In belief Kenny Jackett’s men wouldn’t net, they opted to beat the traffic and turned for the turnstiles. 

And those who did remain in their seats were unable to find to motivation to get behind their team. 

The lack of noise in the dying embers was strikingly noticeable and there were sporadic boos at the final whistle.

What’s becoming clear is apathy is becoming more and more apparent after a lacklustre opening 10 games of the campaign. 

Undoubtedly, the way Pompey ended last season, going out to Sunderland in the play-off semi-finals on a whimper, means it adds to the frustrations.

And supporters are not only dissatisfied by results – but the lack of entertainment from the playing style of late.