Transfer talk: What's happening with Portsmouth striker hunt, Doncaster target Michael Jacobs, League Two-bound Paul Downing, Norwich City's Gassan Ahadme and latest news

Pompey bowed out the Papa John’s Trophy on Tuesday night following a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Cambridge United.

By Pepe Lacey
Wednesday, 12th January 2022, 6:30 pm

There were a number of key events surrounding the game with the return of Pompey captain Clark Robertson as well as the imminent departures of Paul Downing and Gassan Ahadme and plenty of other transfer talk.

Pepe Lacey was joined by Pompey writer Jordan Cross in the latest Pompey Q&A to discuss all the key issues.

Danny Cowley’s side bowed out of the Papa John’s Trophy with defeat to Cambridge, how disappointing were Pompey on Tuesday night?

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Pretty disappointing.

I tweeted after the game that it is why Danny Cowley is requiring attacking reinforcements this month, and that is probably where the problem lied for Pompey last night.

Not just the failure to execute the finishes, although they were good chances for George Hirst in the first half and John Marquis in the second, but just in general play in the attacking third Pompey just aren’t quite finding any fluency at the moment.

They are well stocked in midfield, defensively they’ve been good but there’s just some slight concerns going forward.

Danny Cowley is facing a conundrum with the future of Michael Jacobs.

George Hirst is tailing off after that boost he offered Pompey in the attacking areas over the past couple of months, but in recent weeks he’s falling off again.

Ronan Curtis didn’t really work as an attacking threat and that fact was palpable.

Pompey got what they deserved, Cambridge were good value after that Newcastle upset and it’s another knockout for them.

After a nothing first half in which Cambridge looked more threatening on the counter, they got in control with two goals from Knibbs but Pompey.

Pompey got Jacobs’ goal back, but I don’t they they weren’t a massive threat - and I think it highlighted where there is work for Danny Cowley to do this month.

It is evident that Pompey need a new striker after recent performances, but what type of striker do Pompey need and where could they find one?

Neil Allen has questioned Danny Cowley about the type of striker, because I think a lot of people felt he required a physical presence up front.

He chased Jayden Stockley hard in the summer, George Hirst came in, didn't do it early on but then found his feet.

The thought was it could be someone who could lead the line being sought, someone who could hold the ball up.

A big problem for Pompey has been the fact that since Cowley has been at the club, he’s felt that when the ball has gone forward it has come right back at them. There hasn't been a presence that can hold it up, to allow the players to push up and build progressively.

John Marquis isn’t that player and a lot of other options haven’t been able to do it, Ellis Harrison being one of them.

Therefore it has allowed teams to advance on Pompey without the threat of Pompey being able to hurt them in behind. They can come forward with confidence knowing that the ball isn’t going to come in behind them, which would make them think twice about doing so. That’s what Danny Cowley thinks.

They could need someone with a physical presence, but Cowley saying he is looking at a link man, someone that can provide the link between the midfield and attack.

You then start to look at more of a creative player not the 6ft-plus players like Kyle Wootton, with Cameron Archer’s name mentioned.

I’m sure Cowley would like to get two if he could but that won’t happen, and if you want a player who can do the link play and be the physical presence up front – then you’re starting to look at players that can play in the Championship and Premier League!

If you can do all of that then you would be playing at a higher level, and that’s why it is so hard to find in January. That’s the challenge for Danny at the moment.

Last night saw the return of Clark Robertson, Ryan Tunnicliffe and Louis Thompson. How much of a boost will it be to have them back and in some ways would Robertson and Tunnicliffe feel like new signings?

The one big positive from last night was Clark Robertson. He could be a good signing this month!

His face was a picture but we spoke to him after the game and he couldn't get the grin off it. It was four months to the day since his last appearance against MK Dons on September 11.

It was fitting that he came back four months to the day. The plan was to give him 45 minutes and they weighed up what the best way was to go about that, whether it was to come on in the second half, but they decided to let him nice and warm and start in the first half.

For a player that had been out for that period of time, he was shaking off some rust and wasn’t too bad at all.

It was really pleasant to see him out there and to then have a chat after. He was honest about how hard it has been for him, and he talked about how he questioned himself and how he looked at the injuries, all being freak injuries and not being recurrence of the same one – and wondered “why me?”.

But where they were different injuries and not the same problem, he is now in a place where he’s fit again and not worrying about the same injury taking place. He’s looking forward.

It won’t be easy for Clark given Sean Raggett and Connor Ogilvie have been two of the top performers for Pompey this season.

He won’t be coming in for a 90 just yet, he’ll be building his way up and it’s just a case of watching this space over the next few weeks.

Michael Jacobs was on the score sheet again last night but his future has been a massive talking point in recent weeks. Does he still have a part to play in this team given what both himself and Cowley have said about the situation, should he stay or should he go?

I’ve always felt that Michael Jacobs is probably one of the top two most talented players in the squad, and has the natural ability to open teams up.

He’s in and out of the team a lot of the time so it’s hard for him, but he’s got quality and last night when there was good delivery and sparks it was from Michael Jacobs.

Obviously there have been talks, and my understanding is that he will absolutely not be going to Doncaster Rovers and is not close to an exit.

That’s not to say things can’t change during the month, I just think it’s more of a reflection of the market.

If he does stay I think Jacobs is very happy. He’s one of the top earners, he’s not going to be easy to move and he’s a low-maintenance type of person. Because of that I’ve felt he could be the surprise package that could help Danny in forward areas over the rest of the season.

We saw it at Gillingham where he has come on during games and provided that spark, and he’s honest enough that he can see a niche for himself. There aren’t many players that say they can see themselves coming on - players want to start games.

It’s refreshing of Michael to say he can see a role for himself at Pompey doing that.

It could change, though. Clubs will become more desperate throughout the month with teams trying to bring in players to push for the play-offs, automatic promotion or survival.

But my understanding is, despite the Doncaster Rovers link, Jacobs is not going there. That won’t be happening, and there is no movement close for Michael Jacobs going elsewhere.

After the game It was reported that the departures of Paul Downing and Gassan Ahadme were imminent, where do you think they’ll go and when will they be leaving Fratton Park?

Gassan we’ve known for a while that he’ll be on his way. A couple of clubs are interested in him Burton Albion and Accrington Stanley have been mentioned.

Danny Cowley has said there was a lot of interest in him from both League Two and League One clubs, so it looks like he’ll be playing League One football still this season.

I think it was a move that Pompey had to make because of his form in pre-season, but it hasn’t quite happened to him. I think most supporters have accepted that they had to sign him, it hasn't worked out but good luck to him moving forward.

Danny Cowley said last night a loan is close to being agreed for Downing. That’s set to get another big earner off the wage bill, though I dare say there’ll be some sort of contribution from Pompey towards that.

The latest from me this morning is that there is still a little bit of distance to go to get bits tied up (a move to Rochdale).

Doncaster and Cheltenham were mentioned but he’s not going there.

I think Pompey would end up paying in some way should he leave, but it does free up some more money on the budget - which Danny is so desperate to do.

But Paul Downing has been unlucky in his time at Pompey, lovely lad, no bother, no trouble, I think we all wish him well and hope he stays fit and goes on to play some football moving forward.

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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