Why Portsmouth need to become less reliant on former Luton Town midfielder to create chances and end goalscoring struggles
With Ryan Tunnicliffe and Marcus Harness the only two Pompey players to register assists in the league this season, there needs to be a collective effort to create chances if the Blues are to end their current goalscoring woes.
It’s no secret that Danny Cowley’s side have found goals hard to come by so far this season, with Saturday’s 1-0 defeat at MK Dons further proof that a solution needs to be found.
Pompey were fortunate to reach half-time at Stadium MK still in the game thanks to the brilliance of keeper Gavin Bazunu, with chances at the other end few and far between,
After the interval, the visitors were arguably the better side. But chances evaded the Blues outfit once again as they failed to break the deadlock.
Opportunities for John Marquis and substitute Ronan Curtis came and went, with the MK Dons goal remaining unbreachable.
Evan the introduction of Ellis Harrison – after his hat-trick at AFC Wimbledon – failed to spark the away side into life, with nothing created for him to make an impact.
In the end, it was the hosts’ Ethan Robson who broke the stalemate as he netted 18 minutes from time.
With creativity issues there for all to see, it’s no surprise that Pompey have scored just four league goals across their opening six fixtures, and haven’t scored in their past three.
Tunnicliffe has assisted three of those goals, with Harness registering the only other.
But for a team looking to compete at the top end of League One, there needs to be a sense of danger from more players and positions.
Reeco Hackett-Fairchild and Harness started Saturday’s game on the wings, with Ronan Curtis replacing the former during the second half.
Yet between the three of them, only two key passes were played throughout 90 minutes.
At 23 years of age, perhaps it’s taking Hackett-Fairchild slightly longer to adapt to this level.
The former Bromley winger has averaged 0.3 key passes per match across his six league appearances to date, but still ranks eighth across the Blues squad for chance creation.
Indeed, Hackett-Fairchild is currently ranked lower in average key passes than defenders Lee Brown (1.4) and Kieron Freeman (0.5), while also sits lower than Gassan Ahadme who averages one key pass per match.
In fact, Brown sits second place, behind only Shaun Williams, for average key passes made throughout the opening six league games, highlighting the fact that Pompey’s midfielders need to improve their productivity.
Harness and Curtis are currently averaging one key pass per-match each, with both players struggling to stamp their authority on league matches.
Curtis, in particular, has had to put speculation regarding his future aside, after he remained at the club at the end of the summer transfer window.
It’s crucial for both him and the club that he rediscovers his best form, with the Republic of Ireland international recording 40 goals and 40 assists for Pompey heading into this season.
Only three teams have scored less than the Blues in the league so far this season, with two of those occupying the bottom two places in the league – Doncaster Rovers and Crewe.
And if Pompey are to compete with the likes of Sunderland and Wigan who have scored 10 and eight goals respectively this term, then Cowley will need to find some way to unlock some much needed creativity from his squad.