Why Portsmouth ticketing issue has alarm bells ringing at Fratton Park and why Ryan Tunnicliffe is breath of fresh air
Pompey maintained their 100-per-cent winning start to the new season with a 2-0 win against Crewe on Saturday.
Here, Chief Sports Writer Neil Allen gives his verdict on the game’s main talking points as he has the final say on the victory.
Q Ticketing and the match-day attendance was one of the main taking points from Saturday’s game. Many people have had their say, but what’s your take on it?
From reading supporters’ comments on social media, from communicating with them, it’s clear the primary issue behind Saturday’s deeply disappointing attendance was influenced by ticketing issues.
Obviously, some people are on holiday and some people are not ready to come back following covid, which are genuine concerns.
However, the overwhelming issue is ticketing and fans have struggled to get hold of tickets for the game through the ticket office, online and through phone lines – and it needs to be rectified ASAP.
Obviously, the outcome was Saturday’s attendance, which is Pompey’s lowest for a league game in eight-and-a-half years, which is absolutely appalling when you think about it, bearing in mind this was a big return to Fratton Park after nearly 18 months away.
The previous low was February 2013 against MK Dons and that was a season when Pompey were bottom of the league and facing relegation from League One. You can understand why there was a small attendance for that game.
The alarm bells will be ringing around Fratton Park because there’s big issues here.
They’ve missed out on potential revenue from issues emanating from the football club when fans couldn’t buy tickets.
It’s a matter for concern.
Q On the pitch there was a welcome victory and, with that, are you able to see a noticeable difference in Pompey under Danny Cowley and with players we clearly wants at the club?
What is noticeable is the high-press game which Cowley wants his team operate.
You can see from John Marquis, Marcus Harness, Ronan Curtis, Reeco Hackett-Fairchild, those four were pressing very high up.
Behind them you had Ryan Tunnicliffe doing the same – and behind him you had Shaun Williams just in front of the back four.
Crewe were a poor side, but then, perhaps, Pompey made them play poorly.
They weren’t allowed time on the ball, they were pressurised and forced to give the ball away, Pompey were constantly at them.
They did not let them rest and it was really noticeable.
And from that point of view, Pompey dominated Crewe’s half of the pitch, particularly in the second half.
They were on them every time – one, two sometimes three players converging upon a Crewe player with the ball and it was fascinating to watch.
It was quite in contrast to Kenny Jackett, who favoured a counter-attacking set-up, sitting deep and trying to hit teams on the break.
It did work, let’s not forget he won a lot of games, but it’s just the contrast with Danny Cowley’s approach.
Q Ryan Tunnicliffe has made such an impact already at Fratton Park. What’s he doing to make us all excited by his performances?
We’ve not seen a central midfielder like this at Pompey for many years – you’re talking pre-Paul Cook.
He liked two holding midfielders, as did Kenny Jackett, whereas Tunnicliffe is a central midfielder who powers forward with the ball and both goals on Saturday epitomised what he brings Pompey.
The first goal, he surged forward with the ball to provide an assist for Marquis.
The second goal, he popped up wide on the right to receive a diagonal ball from Curtis and from that point he set up Harness.
So this is a central midfielder, breaking the lines to get forward a lot.
We’ve not seen it for at least six years, so it’s a breath of fresh air in that respect.
And he’s excelled in it – he’s got three assists in three games.
This is not a No10, this is not a winger, this is a conventional central midfielder who has been allowed to roam and think positively in his play.
Q John Marquis was getting plenty of flak before his opener against Crewe. Is the criticism he receives justified?
There was plenty of social media chat from fans calling for him to be substituted at half-time.
But three minutes after the break he’s scored the breakthrough goal and they’re back singing ‘Super Johnny Marquis’.
Let’s face it, Marquis had a difficult time first half and he hasn’t started the season or pre-season in golden form in front of goal.
But it was a wonderful finish against Crewe, it really was.
We’ve not seen to many top finishes like that from Marquis during his time at Pompey – but it was such a lovely clean strike on the run, from the angle, an excellent finish.
It was a touch of quality, to be honest, but we just want more of those sort of goals.
Q Is Reeco Hackett-Fairchild finally making the most of his move to Pompey and giving Danny Cowley something to think about?
He’s an interesting one because it’s incredible to think that that was his first league start for Pompey since arriving in January 2020.
He scored at Millwall, which was a really good goal, so perhaps Danny Cowley thought he deserved to keep his place in the side.
He started off really confidently in the first half but then, for me, faded out of it.
But second half, he was back on it and proving very influential.
Hackett-Fairchild’s a good size, a good height and he’s growing into it.
He’s still a rookie, learning from non-league, but Cowley has seen something in him which he likes.
He seems a really nice lad, is determined to succeed and let’s hope he can.
He’s the forgotten man but is like a new signing and Saturday was another encouraging performance from him.