Save our season: The changes we think Portsmouth should make for Sunderland's visit to Fratton Park

Pompey welcome Sunderland to Fratton Park tonight desperate to turn their faltering season around.

By Mark McMahon
Tuesday, 9th March 2021, 12:03 pm

One win in six means the Blues are struggling to keep pace with their fellow promotion rivals, while Kenny Jackett’s side could even find themselves outside of the play-off positions if results don’t go their way this evening.

That would have been inconceivable back at Christmas, with Pompey riding high in the division.

Yet poor form, a lack of spark and individual errors, amongst others, have proven costly as the Blues have gradually slipped from their previous lofty perch.

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That’s seen Jackett go looking for answers within his squad, giving others a chance to prove their worth and changing systems.

Yet it hasn’t worked, with Saturday’s humiliation at the hands of Northampton the latest twist in an ever-depressing League One run-in.

No doubt, further changes will be made form tonight’s game with in-form Sunderland.

As a result, we’ve tasked three members of the News’ Pompey desk to step into Jackett’s shoes and name the team they’d like to see start against the Black Cats.

Jordy Hiwula is being tipped to start for Pompey against Sunderland tonight

Here’s what they’ve come up with...

Neil Allen’s starting XI

Pompey is very much about reshuffling the dog-earned, grimy, nicotine-stained deck of playing cards at the minute and hoping for a dazzling outcome.

The manager himself has switched systems, shown faith in players and revisited previous winning formulas - but still nothing.

Still, I’d work from the top downwards, firstly reuniting John Marquis and Marcus Harness in attack, either as a 4-4-2 or 4-4-1-1.

It’s a double act which briefly flourished previously, productive in goals for both of them, although Harness’ hat-track was alongside Ellis Harrison.

In turn, that will allow Ryan Williams to return to the side after being such an inspirational presence when the team was doing well.

Similarly, it’s about time Pompey’s best central-defensive partnership returned - Jack Whatmough and Sean Raggett. They’ve been split up for far too long.

Pompey: MacGillivray, Bolton, Whatmough, Raggett, Brown, Williams, Naylor, Cannon, Curtis, Marquis, Harness.

Will Rooney’s starting line-up

Four changes at Northampton failed to bear fruit, despite most agreeing it looked a strong line-up on paper.

Now after that horror show, Pompey surely need to rip up the side again.

The substitutes in the second half at Sixfields did make a difference but, let's be honest, the Cobblers were always going to sit back with a four-goal lead.

I'd be opting for a 4-3-3 formation, making four changes in total.

James Bolton needs to come back in at right-back and allow Jack Whatmough to move back into central defence with Sean Raggett.

Harvey White's been the best of the January arrivals so far and was decent when coming on at Northampton.

It's about time Ryan Williams came back into the side as well after being left on the bench at Northampton.

Then let's finally see Jordy Hiwula's pace and movement from the outset after he made a nuisance of himself for a second successive game as a sub.

Play him on the left of the front three and return Marcus Harness to a central role where he thrived in the early part of the season.

I'd be tempted to throw Michael Jacobs straight back in, but you can't risk him breaking down again.

Pompey: Craig MacGillivray, James Bolton, Jack Whatmough, Sean Raggett, Lee Brown, Tom Naylor, Harvey White, Andy Cannon, Ryan Williams, Jordy Hiwula, Marcus Harness.

Mark McMahon’s starting XI

Despite Pompey’s defensive problems in recent games, my main concern at this moment is with the Blues as an attacking force.

Too many of Kenny Jackett’s so-called ‘go to men’ in that department have hit a wall and are actually offering very little to get Pompey out of the awful predicament they find themselves in.

On top of that, those who have found themselves in reserve aren’t exactly dazzling us with their contributions when they get a chance, making the headache worse.

Jordy Hiwula would be the exception, with the former Coventry man showing enough movement, energy, and spark against Northampton as a second-half sub to suggest he finally deserves a start in the league.

And I’d pair him up front with Marcus Harness. Yes, he’s a player who has frustrated me in recent months, but he and Hiwula as a partnership could stretch a Sunderland defence that is lacking key personnel with their movement, get them into uncomfortable positions and then hit them with their pace.

I’d also recall Ryan Williams to the right wing in a 4-4-2 formation and swap Ronan Curtis with Harvey White on the left.

Sorry, Ronan, you’re just not delivering the goods at the moment – plain and simple.

Going back to the defence, James Bolton is a must at right-back, with Jack Whatmough restored to the centre of defence alongside Sean Raggett.

At left-back, I’d opt for Charlie Daniels on this occasion.

He's yet to convince me with his defending, but I hope the penny might have finally dropped that he's actually here to to provide much-needed quality, experience and know-how to this team at times like this.

Pompey: Craig MacGillivray, James Bolton, Jack Whatmough, Sean Raggett, Charlie Daniels, Ryan Williams, Tom Naylor, Andy Cannon, Harvey White, Marcus Harness, Jordy Hiwula.

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

On Saturday, March 13 Pompey will finally get their day at Wembley.

To celebrate the Blues’ place in the rearranged 2020 EFL Trophy Final, The News has launched an offer that gets you 25% off all our Sports subscriptions.

You can choose your perfect Sports subscription here and use the discount code ROADTOWEMBLEY25 to get the latest news from Fratton Park for less. Offer runs until midnight on March 15.