Portsmouth's set-pieces proving potent - although win over Lincoln unlikely to sway any Kenny Jackett detractors
Sports writer Will Rooney picks out the talking points from Pompey’s League One victory over Lincoln...
Set-piece threat proving potent
It’s a point Kenny Jackett consistently makes – set-pieces are crucial at any level of the game.
The Pompey boss has previously said the numbers show that 30-35 per cent of all goals stem from them free-kicks and corners.
So Jackett would have been delighted that not only were his side effective from dead-ball situations but caused Micahel Appleton to bemoan his side’s defending as they ‘knew what was coming.’
Gareth Evans’ delivery is pivotal to the Blues making their aerial dominance count inside the box. In the 28th minute, his delicate free-kick picked out Sean Raggett at the back post, only for Harry Toffolo to get a block on his header and Imps stopper Josh Vickers gathered.
Moments later, though, Pompey made the breakthrough. Evans’ whipped delivery from the right was put right into the danger zone, the corridor of uncertainty between the keeper and defence.
Christian Burgess was first to meet it, attacking with a bullet header that Vickers could only parry, giving John Marquis what would prove to be a decisive tap-in.
In the second period, Burgess attacked another Evans set-piece only for Vickers to this time gather. Unfortunately, the centre-back’s cheeky attempt to lift the keeper over the line didn’t work.
Jackett will be fairly disappointed none of his central defenders have yet to score this term as he sees them as key to weighing in with their share of goals.
But with Raggett heading against the post against Gillingham and having one cleared off the line at AFC Wimbledon, as well as Burgess’ crashing an effort off the bar at the Wombles and forcing to saves out of Vickers, there are significant signs of improvement in the department.
Win unlikely to sway Jackett’s detractors
The endeavour and heart Pompey displayed didn’t go without warm applause at full-time.
Yet, in truth, the win over Lincoln would have done little to change the opinions of either the Kenny Jackett in or out camp that continues to split supporters.
On the one hand, those who still firmly believe in the boss will see the victory as a step in the right direction.
The three points can act as a confidence boost, while it quickly put paid to Saturday’s disappointing defeat at AFC Wimbledon.
The Blues grafted off the ball, put in a shift in and threw bodies at shots as Lincoln searched for an equaliser.
Tom Naylor epitomised that when he was dispossessed inside his area by Tyler Walker before racing 20 yards to snuff out the danger.
And having now collected 10 points from a possible 15, results have undoubtedly picked up.
But the success unlikely did anything to swing any of Jackett’s detractors.
It wasn’t a rousing 4-0 victory that underlined a clear turning point and Pompey’s attacking riches had finally clicked into full throttle.
Instead, it was a success by a solitary goal against a Lincoln side that now have just won just two of their past 15 games.
Sections of alienated fans still groaned they didn’t get their value for entertainment after the final whistle, frustrated by the football that’s been on offer.
Pompey still were nervy on the ball in periods during the second half, lacking thrust from the engine room, while they didn’t conjure up too many chances from open play.
A goal to light the touchpaper
It’s not a goal that’s going to feature on John Marquis’ highlight reel that captures his best moments.
However, the striker undoubtedly would have snatched your arm off for it before kick-off.
Following a big-money summer arrival from Doncaster, Marquis – like his team-mates - has endured a stuttering start to the season.
The marksman never likely thought he’d go 10 games without a goal at Fratton Park given his prolific scoring at the Keepmoat.
But Marquis finally had something to celebrate against Lincoln and proved the Blues’ match-winner.
While he couldn't miss after Josh Vickers kept out Christian Burgess, it shouldn’t go underestimated that he showed the intelligence not to roam offside and ensure he was in play to tuck home the rebound.
That’s been a penchant he’s shown throughout his Pompey career and has scarcely failed to beat the offside trap.
Now he's hit the target again, he’ll be eyeing up another fruitful period.