The questions over Ronan Curtis as transfer quiet continues for Preston, Cardiff City and Blackburn target while Luton Town arrival fails to hit Doncaster Rovers highs

Pompey’s 100 per cent league start came to an end at Doncaster Rovers on Saturday, but their impenetrable opening continued with their fourth shutout on the spin. Here’s the final verdict on the 0-0 draw at the Keepmoat Stadium.

Monday, 23rd August 2021, 12:14 pm
Updated Monday, 23rd August 2021, 12:20 pm

No go for Joe

Perhaps the build-up had raised expectations a little unfairly.

But Joe Morrell’s full debut failed to reach the levels hoped for, as the high-profile summer arrival from Ipswich Town couldn’t find fluency against Richie Wellens’ side.

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Pompey’s midfield strength has been arguably the standout improvement to the start to the season, as both Shaun Williams and Ryan Tunnicliffe shine centrally.

Williams was given a break at Doncaster, as Morrell partnered the man who has impacted every league goal scored this term.

For the first time this term, however, Pompey lost the midfield battleground in the first half as highly-touted Manchester United loanee Ethan Galbraith and, particularly, John Bostock dominated.

Ronan Curtis. (Photo by Daniel Chesterton/phcimages.com)

Maybe it was the fact the Blues duo were an embryonic partnership, maybe it was Morrell still finding his feet physically after a stop-start period ahead of his Fratton arrival - but Doncaster’s dominance centrally allowed them to gain a foothold for much of the first 45 minutes.

Ben Close playing as 10 also gave the home side an extra body with midfield nous, while Gassan Ahadme couldn’t provide the same support as the two sides matched up in 4-2-3-1 formations.

Cowley tweaked things at the break, however, and when the second-half cavalry arrived in Williams and Michael Jacobs the balance of play switched back Pompey’s way as the home side tired.

We did manage to catch a couple of glimpses of Morrell’s drive in his 59-minute outing, but not necessarily the dominance we will expect when he does settle into his new home.

The Curtis conundrum

Ronan Curtis quite rightly has been lauded for his commitment and professionalism amid continuing talk of a Pompey exit.

The Republic of Ireland has been honest enough to talk about his desire to test himself at Championship level, but hasn’t downed tools like some of his predecessors in a similar position.

It may well have had no relevance to the talk about his future, but a quieter display did pose the question how is the winger dealing with all the speculation?

For all the suggestion of interest from Cardiff, Preston and Blackburn, there doesn’t appear to be anything moving currently as we approach the final week of the transfer window.

Of course, things can change on that front very quickly, but thoughts are starting to turn to how will Curtis deal with things if he doesn’t depart?

With his heart set on playing at a higher level, the 25-year-old wouldn’t be human if he didn’t feel disappointment at a deal not getting over the line.

It wouldn’t be a case of toys being thrown from the pram, but even subconsciously there would be issues raised about the psychological impact of staying put when expecting to be on his way.

For now, it’s a theoretical conversation but one which could gain more traction beyond 11pm next Tuesday.

Raggs’ riches

With a single game remaining, there’s currently one shining contender for Pompey’s top performer this month.

Sean Raggett continues to go from strength to strength - and was once more a standout performer at Doncaster.

At a time when his side are still looking for fluency on the front foot, the former Norwich City man’s defensive resolve is proving crucial.

A late rearguard action was needed against Shrewsbury with Raggett central to its success - and more of the same was needed in the first half at the Keepmoat.

Doncaster didn’t present the most physically imposing side, allowing the 27-year-old’s strength to really come to the fore as he dominated aerially

Raggett says he’s comfortable on the right and left side of a central pairing, but as a right footer there’s clear benefits in terms of positioning, balance and the areas of pitch which are opened up with a player operating on his natural side.

Pompey are now one of two EFL sides not to concede in the league this season, along with Sheffield Wednesday.

There’s little doubt Raggett is the single biggest contributor to that stat.

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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