Square pegs in round holes as Portsmouth's stuttered League One campaign continues against Burton

Sports writer Will Rooney picks out the talking points from Pompey’s 2-2 draw with Burton...

Wednesday, 18th September 2019, 2:15 pm
Updated Wednesday, 18th September 2019, 4:11 pm
Craig MacGillivray, left, and Ross McCrorie dejected after the draw with Burton. Picture: Joe Pepler

Square pegs in round holes

It’s an opinion that a fair few fans have expressed.

A significant factor that contributed to the dismal display against Burton was Pompey had square pegs in round holes.

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When injuries do bite, sometimes it’s necessary for players to do a job in a makeshift role.

Christian Burgess served superbly at right-back against QPR and Blackpool, earning man-of-the-match plaudits in the latter.

But the popular defender operating out wide should only have gone on as long as required.

In fairness to Burgess, he put a couple of decent crosses into the box before half-time against the Brewers, with his delivery resulting in Ronan Curtis’ goal.

Craig MacGillivray, left, and Ross McCrorie dejected after the draw with Burton. Picture: Joe Pepler

But the popular defender’s not a right-back by trade. Through no fault of his own, he was out of position at times and required to attack too much.

Burgess again filled in at right-back despite James Bolton having two 90-minute appearances under his belt.

And, crucially, Burgess could have featured in his natural centre-back role and Tom Naylor could have served in midfield.

The newly-appointed skipper’s experience to police the middle of the park was severely missed.

Ross McCrorie endured a difficult evening trying to fill the void of Naylor, not offering the same high-octane pressing or nous.

There’s a case the Scot should have been out quicker closing down Kieran Wallace before his deflected shot doubled Burton's lead.

When Pompey have had Paul Downing and Burgess in central defence with Naylor shielded in front of them this season, they’ve conceded just three times in four matches.

It’s looked the most stable rearguard and a set-up Kenny Jackett must be weighing up to revert back to.

Pitman wasted dropping deep

If there was a player you want on the pitch to fire home a last-gasp penalty then it's Brett Pitman.

The ex-AFC Bournemouth man showed nerves of steel to emphatically send his spot-kick into the roof of the net and rescue Pompey a point.

But in terms of his overall performance, there were some question marks over the positions he frequently took up.

Deployed in the number-10 role on his maiden start of the campaign, Pitman regularly dropped back in search of the ball. The forward took it upon himself to collect possession from deep and try to get at attack going.

Bar a few cross-field passes, Pitman couldn't conjure the moment of quality that really calves open the Brewers.

And when the ball was shifted wide, the forward was then nowhere near the danger area he thrives in.

Apart from striking the bar after an advantage was played, Pitman’s contributions from open play were few and far between.

In truth, Pompey missed the energy of Andy Cannon and he made his mark when climbing off the bench.

If Kenny Jackett pursues with Pitman in his side then surely the instructions will be for him to stay closer to the opposition box where he can fully make a nuisance of himself.

Stuttered start continues

Salvaging a point with the last kick of the game usually culminates in euphoric cheers.

That didn't happen at the final whistle against Burton, though. Instead boos rung out from the stands, with fans not forgetting what had unfolded earlier in the game.

Disastrous defending led to Pompey falling 2-0 down after six minutes.

And despite having a numerical advantage for more than an hour, the Blues struggled to create enough goalscoring chances.

Except a Ronan Curtis header, Brewers keeper Kieran O'Hara was scarcely tested.

That’s now six points from as many games for Kenny Jackett’s side and just one League One victory all campaign.

There's still ample time for the Blues to put a run together, of course, with three matches in hand on some of their rivals.

But Pompey are swiftly going to turn things around otherwise it could be a long season ahead.