Sports writer Will Rooney looks at the pre-match talking points ahead of Pompey’s trip to Southend...
TRUSTED PERFORMERS OR NEWCOMERS
The pressure is starting to mount on Kenny Jackett to make changes to his starting XI.
With Pompey winless in their past five League One games, some fans want to see fresh faces in the Blues’ line-up.
Concerns have been raised over flagging wingers Ronan Curtis and Jamal Lowe, in particular.
After a barnstorming first half of the campaign, they’ve amassed just a single goal and two assists since the New Year’s Day win over AFC Wimbledon.
Viv Solomon-Otabor arrived at Fratton Park with a fairly lofty reputation, after impressing on loan at Blackpool last season.
Lloyd Isgrove has also underlined his quality in the third tier in the past, having helped Barnsley to play-off glory in 2015.
Either would allow Curtis and/or Lowe the respite they seem to need.
There’s also some calls from the terraces for Jackett to switch from his favoured 4-2-3-1 formation to accommodate two strikers.
Pompey aren’t short of quality or quantity in the final third, with Omar Bogle, Oli Hawkins, James Vaughan and Brett Pitman all options.
But whether the Blues boss thinks any of the quartet could combine as an attacking force is a different matter.
Jackett has to decide whether he’ll stick with the formula that saw his side underline their title credentials in the first half of the season or change his tack.
Certainly, the manager still has belief the line-up he steadfastly rolled out before Christmas can reproduce the goods.
But with some players arguably needing a breather – and others desperate for an opportunity – the manager has a big decision to make.
MUCH-ELUDED CLEAN SHEET COMING
Pompey’s 2-0 victory over Southend at Fratton Park in December couldn’t have been more straightforward.
A Michael Turner own goal and Jamal Lowe’s header put the Blues out of reach before the half-hour mark.
Craig MacGillivray had an easy afternoon in the home goal, with barely a shot to save.
However, that’s the last time Pompey kept a clean sheet in the league.
In their subsequent 10 games, MacGillivray has been beaten at least once on each occasion.
The Blues’ defensive solidity was the cornerstone to their success in the first half of the campaign.
Kenny Jackett’s pragmatic approach is borne out of his side conceding zeros and ones, giving the forwards the confidence to win his side games at the opposite end of the pitch.
Pompey could count themselves unlucky not to have registered a shutout in the 1-1 draw with Plymouth last weekend.
Graham Carey’s superb free-kick left MacGillivray helpless.
But, apart from that, the Scot was untroubled at Home Park as the Blues’ defence stoically soaked up the Pilgrims’ pressure.
It was reminiscent to how Jackett’s rearguard action have scrapped so doggedly on numerous occasions this term.
And if they continue to perform like that then it will continue to take moments of quality to break Pompey down.
START OF A DEFINING PERIOD
Kenny Jackett is someone who, maybe with the exception of transfer talk, plays everything with a straight bat.
He’s not someone who will exaggerate things – which is why it was a curveball the boss labelled Pompey’s upcoming five games in 15 days season-defining.
Granted, he slightly played the statement down when pressed on the matter at Thursday’s press conference.
But it highlights Jackett knows it’s crucial his side reignite their Championship charge at Southend.
The Blues should be aiming – and expecting – nothing less than three points against the Shrimpers.
Chris Powell’s men have won only one of their past seven games and have already been put to the sword twice by Pompey this season.
A success at Roots Hall would instil confidence back into the Blues after their recent blip.
And picking up another win against Bristol Rovers on Tuesday night would mean Jackett’s troops will head into next weekend’s key clash against Barnsley bullish they can defeat their promotion rivals.