Where are Portsmouth's fringe players when we need them to step up? No-where it seems as squad flaws are exposed

There’s no fringe player banging down Danny Cowley’s door with the right to demand a place in his struggling starting XI.

By Mark McMahon
Thursday, 21st October 2021, 2:19 pm

That’s the opinion of Pompey writer Jordan Cross, who believes the head coach has limited options he can turn to in order to turn the Blues’ fortunes around.

Pompey’s defeat to Ipswich on Tuesday night was their ninth in all competitions this season and their sixth already in League One as they dropped to 17th in the table.

Throughout this current poor run of form, Cowley has largely stuck to the same players in the hope that they wrestle control of the situation.

Indeed, nine have made 11 or more starts in the 13 league games Pompey have played to date this season.

Meanwhile, not included in that figure is Mahlon Romeo, who has started the Blues’ past seven third-tier matches.

Those players on the fringes have, of course, not taken their chance when called upon – with last week’s Papa John’s Trophy defeat at the hands of League Two Sutton testament to that.

Pompey boss Danny Cowley discusses tactics with brother Nicky during Tuesday night's defeat at the hands of Ipswich Picture: Graham Hunt

And that, according to Cross, gives Cowley a massive problem as he looks for solutions within his ranks to stop the rot, with maybe only two or three players currently viewed as capable of stepping up.

Speaking in our latest Pompey Talk Q&A about the lack of options available, Cross said: ‘It’s a big disappointment, of course it is.

‘You only have to look no further than the Papa John’s Trophy games, most recently Sutton United, and the Basingstoke Hampshire Senior Cup game.

‘It doesn’t seem that Danny Cowley fancies Michael Jacobs – but let’s face it, what has Michael Jacobs done to push himself into the equation?

‘He’s been poor in both games I’ve referenced.

‘When you look at the bench, Gassan Ahadme has been a disappointment.

‘He loves scoring in friendlies, but then can’t translate that to competitive football.

‘It’s happened too often now for that to be a coincidence.

‘Is that a psychological issue at play there?

‘George Hirst – it seems that Cowley doesn’t quite fancy him either.

‘The fact that he has kept faith with John Marquis, whose mobility he likes, but there was a revealing moment on Tuesday when Marquis came off and was affectively blanked by Danny Cowley.

‘He was more interested in speaking to Nicky about tactical decisions when normally they acknowledge players when they come off.

‘That didn’t happen and maybe you can read something into that.

‘I think he was maybe disappointed with the movement John Marquis offered, given that he so frequently references that that is one of his big assets.

‘So in terms of where do you turn, maybe Miguel Azeez, maybe Connor Ogilvie?

‘But there’s not a lot of places for Danny Cowley to turn.

‘Perhaps that’s slightly reaping what he sowed in terms of a high quality search for players, focusing on quality not quantity, running a tighter squad and then being hit with the kind of injuries that have exposed flaws in that squad so far this season.’

On Tuesday night, Cowley turned to Reeco Hackett, Hirst and Ogilvie in a bid to stem the flow against Ipswich.

Yet none made an impact, while Louis Thompson, Jacobs and Azeez remained on the bench.

Ahadme was once again overlooked and wasn’t named among the substitutes.

Clark Robertson, Paul Downng and Ellis Harrison are all currently injured.