Rochdale 3 Pompey 3: The Final Verdict
Jordan Cross looks back at the key issues emerging from the hard-earned point won at Rochdale.
A point at an unfashionable side fighting for survival may not suggest play-off potential.
But a grey and wet Lancashire afternoon at the foothills of the Pennines revealed plenty about the character of Kenny Jackett’s men.
On a day when Pompey were well short of their best, they battled back on three occasions to snare a precious point in their top-six bid.
The final time may have arrived with the assistance of the unfortunate Matt Done in stoppage time, but it came about as a result of the Blues pressurising and asking questions until the death.
That moment meant the game will be remembered for the bizarre stat of Pompey scoring three times, despite having just two shots on target.
Rochdale asked plenty of questions of Jackett’s side with their physicality and the tempo they set early on.
Brad Inman’s quality out wide shone along with Callum Camps in the middle of the park, while Steven Humphry’s presence up front gave Matt Clarke and Jack Whatmough a battle to deal with.
Keith Hill’s side may still be in the drop zone but it’s now just a single defeat in nine for them.
Plymouth and Charlton both still have to go to Spotland. It will be interesting to see if they emerge unscathed.
Playing with Pitman
Kenny Jackett believes the penny has dropped with Pompey.
The Blues boss feels his team have now realised how to get the best out of their attacking talisman.
That certainly appears the case with Brett Pitman in the richest goal form of his time at the club.
Pitman’s double at Rochdale made it seven goals in his past five games, in the same week he became the first player in 15 years to break the 20-goal barrier.
The evidence is there is the kind of telepathic understanding developing with his attacking team-mates which will benefit his goal haul.
Time and again, the ball was played into the kind of danger areas Pitman inhabits at the back post by Jamal Lowe and Gareth Evans.
There was so much to enjoy about Pompey’s opener as the striker started and finished a lovely move with Lowe.
Before that, he headed over when well placed from a peach of dipping, swerving Evans ball in.
Jackett noted how his players are now able to provide supply for Pitman ‘blind’, such is their understanding of his movement.
That only arrives putting the hours in to help those link-ups blossom.
Back in Business
It’s been a long four months for Stuart O’Keefe.
But the Pompey midfielder was finally back in business with a 30-minute second-half cameo at Rochdale.
O’Keefe showed he’s now over the groin issue which has kept him sidelined since December.
It was also noticeable how the combative talent added energy to his side’s game when it was needed.
The loanee was, of course, central to his side’s plans earlier in the season with a 14-game unbroken run from September to the start of November.
At 27, O’Keefe’s presence adds another man of experience to Kenny Jackett’s options at a critical stage.
It’s also helps to offset the potential loss of Anton Walkes, who picked up a hamstring injury in stoppage time at Rochdale.
Pompey are waiting to see the extent of that problem, but, with Walkes operating as a holding midfielder of late, it could open a path back into the starting equation for the Cardiff man.