Sports writer Jordan Cross looks at the bigger picture behind Paul Cook revealing the statistic of the difference in Pompey results between the top and bottom sides in League Two
IT’S A revealing stat which is keeping Paul Cook up at night.
Pompey versus the top half of League Two. And the Blues against the bottom half.
A league table of their fixtures against the top 12 would place Cook’s men second in the division with 10 games to go.
And the bottom? 14th.
It’s a damning piece of information, which the Scouser has been restlessly trying to compute all week.
But what do we garner from it? What does it actually mean?
Cook’s side can turn it on when want? Well, yes. But they are too inconsistent? Tell us something we don’t know.
‘We don’t have to sign better players,’ says the Pompey manager cryptically in tomorrow’s Sports Mail. ‘We have to sign worse ones.’
Or put another way, players who can deal with the problems presented in the rough house of England’s fourth tier.
Newport County was a typical example, last weekend.
Pompey’s players weren’t savvy enough to identify the problem presented and crack the code.
Or game management, if you like, if you want to afford the popular moniker afforded in football circles these days.
That’s the ability to adapt and make the crucial judgements which are the margin between eking out a victory and defeat.
It’s evolving your game for 10 minutes in the crucial stages to avoid losing 3-0 to a team you should be putting to the sword.
In eight league games against the top seven this season Pompey have lost one game.
For the optimists, (or fantasists), that, and a string of impressive cup performances, speak of a squad with a nucleus which can go again if they get out of League Two.
For the pessimists (or realists), a run-in strewn with the type of winnable tests Pompey have failed offer a less optimistic outlook.
With 10 games to go, solving the game-management riddle looks to be the key to Pompey’s fate.