Portsmouth verdict on out-of-contract ex-Wigan Athletic, Millwall and Lincoln City men - and a long slog to the summer

Pompey returned to action against Bolton on Tuesday following an enforced two-and-a-half week break.

By Pepe Lacey
Wednesday, 6th April 2022, 1:31 pm
Updated Wednesday, 6th April 2022, 1:37 pm

The draw leaves the Blues 12 points away from the play-offs with the top six now appearing out of reach with seven games to go.

Pepe Lacey is joined by Jordan Cross to discuss what the point means for Pompey’s season, out-of-contract players and where Cowley’s side go from here.

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Here’s what was said.

Q: Pompey returned to action last night following a 16-day break and played out a 1-1 draw at Bolton. Was there that rustiness last night that we saw following their previous enforced break in December?

The next seven games will feel like a long slog to the summer with nothing to play for.

You’ve got to look at last night’s performance in isolation because it wasn’t a terrible performance for Pompey, it was a reasonable result. It just comes off the back of a downturn in results before the break - but it’s the same issues that are apparent for everyone to see.

From left: Danny Cowley, Marcus Harness, Sean Raggett, Michael Jacobs

They didn’t create that many clear cut opportunities, in the first half there was Sean Raggett’s header but they started the second half well and were on the front foot.

They got the goal early on in the second half from Aiden O’Brien who continues to be a breath of fresh air at this point in the season. For a period I thought they would put the game to bed, they were wilting Bolton but then they came back from not looking like scoring and got the penalty, which I thought was a penalty.

As I say, in isolation the result is a positive one but it’s just the overriding dissipating enthusiasm for the season. With seven games to go there isn’t a lot to play for.

Q: Pompey did score last night but there are still those overriding issues in front of goal that they aren’t putting their chances away. Who can they turn to and what can they do to combat that?

They are not awash with attacking options and I can’t see anything seismic at this stage of the season radically changing things now. It’s now simply limping through to the summer and then a rebuild.

On the bench you had Ronan Curtis, Marcus Harness and Tyler Walker, who hasn’t done it and has been an expensive failure so far for Portsmouth.

If I’m perfectly frank, I don't see it changing between now and the summer and it’s just a case of muddling through and going again in the summer.

Q: The draw appears to have tipped Pompey fans into believing there isn’t that play-off hope, although Danny Cowley is still being optimistic.

I get that with some supporters but what is Danny Cowley expected to say? He can’t say they’re throwing in the towel and that his side have nothing to play for. He’s hamstrung and has to say we are going to the death.

Perhaps, there could be a little bit more context saying if players are playing for their futures or not.

I find it quite revealing that I’ve got certain behaviours that are revealing. I’ve started looking at the League Two table seeing who could come up and looking at the Championship at who’s coming down. If you start doing that it says quite a lot about where things are going.

Derby County if they come down, will be fresh from a takeover, Barnsley and Peterborough and these teams will come down and be nobody’s mugs next season in what again will be a very strong League One.

Q: What can Pompey do moving forward for the rest of the season ahead of the summer and next season in order to improve?

There’s a lot of work to do with the squad.

Pompey have struggled for goals but when you look at those attacking players you question how many are they going to have for next season – that’s going to be a massive area for Danny Cowley.

Obviously, Ronan Curtis is going to be around next season unless he’s sold, Marcus Harness is one of those out-of-contract players but the option will definitely be taken up on him.

Otherwise there’s not going to be too much there, so there will be a massive focus on an attacking rebuild.

Defensively there’s more players around with Denver Hume and Liam Vincent as well as two-left sided centre halves with Ogilvie and Robertson and perhaps maybe that will be why Will Boyle might not move to Pompey.

More importantly, with Hayden Carter going back and Sean Raggett out of contract, the Blues will need to sort out that right side of the middle of defence - as well as the right-back situation. Mahlon Romeo’s loan is coming to a close leaving Kieron Freeman and Haji Mnoga being the only options there.

An attacking overhaul is incoming and we’ll wait to see what happens to George Hirst, whose stock has risen with five goals in March.

Aiden O’Brien is another one Pompey fans want to see back next season, that is an absolute priority for Pompey.

Q: There are 12 out-of-contract players in the summer, how many of those do you expect to stay next season and are they playing for their future or is it too late?

The good thing from all of this is that there is an element of control with the options on the out-of-contract players.

Marcus Harness is an asset and you’d expect that option to be taken up along with Louis Thompson, because they’ve got a really good option on a player who is looking to rebuild his career. He took a massive pay cut from £15k-£20k a week not too long ago, took a small deal with an option that’s not really made a big increase on his wages.

I still think there is a question mark over Sean Raggett. His option is related to Pompey playing Championship football so not so much control over that for Pompey’s end.

The likes of Jayden Reid and Jay Minigi may well be around as cheap squad players, but I don’t see too many staying on.

Michael Jacobs talk has caused contention, I don’t think he’ll be here next season. I don’t think his fitness record and how he fits in with Danny Cowley’s game idea that he is a fit for Pompey moving forward with the money he’s on. Shaun Williams at 35, there was no option on him but I don’t think he was going to be back next season anyway.

That’s how I see the out-of-contract players and I think it will be difficult to secure any of the loan players with Goerge Hirst being the most likely.