Questions over attitude and selection as Portsmouth are taken to school on bleakest afternoon in Accrington

Pompey writer Jordan Cross delivers the final verdict on Saturday’s dreadful loss at Accrington and looks at the key issues arising from the defeat.

Monday, 16th December 2019, 12:00 pm
Updated Monday, 16th December 2019, 3:06 pm

A question of attitude?

The Pompey boss feels stressing the basics of working harder than the opposition has been a fundamental aspect of his team’s 10-game unbeaten run.

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On Saturday, it looked as if Accrington’s players grafted harder than his.

The analysts will know whether the numbers did, indeed, show Stanley’s players covered more ground than Pompey’s.

What was abundantly evident without access to the data room was John Coleman’s men set a ferocious tempo Jackett’s simply couldn’t match.

The result was the hosts clocking up a number of chances even before the second-half capitulation arrived, which saw three goals scored in 15 minutes to give a 4-1 scoreline which could’ve been wider.

Ben Close & Co looked dejected as the goals go in at Accrington Picture: Daniel Chesterton

On reflection, a completely new back four looked ill-at-ease, disorganised and without cover from the midfield players in front of them out of possession.

And a starting XI hit by injury and absence didn’t seem to know where either the next pass was going or what run to make to help their team-mate with the ball.

That’s not down to work-rate and distances covered, but the factors combined to see a 10-game unbeaten run surrendered on the bleakest afternoon of the season.

On a Downer

James Bolton is desolate as Accrington Stanley celebrate on the way to Saturday's 4-1 win. Photo by Daniel Chesterton/phcimages.com

A defence butchered by injuries and absences meant a completely new back line was fielded at Accrington.

Yet, still there was no place for Paul Downing.

A suspension to Christian Burgess and Oli Hawkins celebrating the birth of his child took the pair out of the equation at the Crown Ground.

With Lee Brown and Brandon Haunstrup also sidelined, it meant a monumental shake-up at the back – but one Jackett chose to tackle by taking skipper Tom Naylor out of midfield and into his back line.

Tom Naylor. Photo by Daniel Chesterton/phcimages.com

That meant a greater reshuffle, with Ross McCorie coming into the position in the middle of the park he was originally signed to play in.

Jackett explained giving the Scot a chance to stake his claim there while adding a voice in Naylor to a new-look back four was his thinking behind his decision.

As the Pompey boss admitted himself, it clearly didn’t work.

But the fact that with all those issues, Jackett still didn’t see fit to turn to the man he signed in the summer must be viewed as a slap in the face to the defender.

And with it now over three months since a man who looked set to be a first-choice centre-back played a minute in the league, it’s understandable for supporters to view the situation with some bemusement.

Pompey taught a lesson

Last summer he was working in the classroom. And on Saturday he taught Pompey a lesson.

Colby Bishop took the Blues’ back line to school with a display of attacking quality which was the equal of any faced by Kenny Jackett’s side this season.

The 23-year-old raised his total for the season to 12 goals with his double and an all-round display which epitomised the tempo set by Accrington and the manner in which they laid into their battered foes.

The man who was playing in the National League North – the sixth tier of the game – until this season showed strength, power and movement the visitors couldn’t handle.

Bishop served notice of his intent by the manner in which he threw himself at two early crosses between the posts. Fortunately for Pompey, both ended up flying narrowly past the post.

More of the same was to follow after the break, but this time the ball ended up in the net.

First as he sniffed one out as Ross McCrorie was left in Sam Finley’s wake, before Craig MacGillivray parried his shot.

Then a simple run off Sean Raggett’s shoulder created the space for him to angle home his second. There were other chances, too, against a rattled Blues defence.

After Harrogate’s Mark Beck and Altrincham’s Jordan Hulme, it’s another example of a striker with a strong non-league background giving Pompey’s defence a battering.