Rotherham v Pompey: pre-match talking points

Will Rooney previews Pompey's clash against Rotherham and picks the bones of the pre-match talking points...

Friday, 19th January 2018, 7:00 pm
Nathan Thompson played in a central midfield role against Scunthorpe. Picture: Joe Pepler

Can Ronan continue his Pompey progress?

Whisper it quietly, but Pompey might have a gem in Connor Ronan going on early impressions.

The Wolves loanee delivered a classy performance on his league debut in last weekend’s draw against Scunthorpe.

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In the 3-5-2 system deployed by Kenny Jackett, Ronan was the bridge between the midfield and attack and carried out his duties, particularly in the first half, superbly.

Although he’s a diminutive figure, the Republic of Ireland under-21 international proved he’s capable of meeting the physical demands of League One.

There aren’t many sides who are as battle-hardened as the Iron in the division, yet Ronan ensured he wasn’t bullied or knocked off the ball easily.

Naturally, the Rochdale-born talent will progress on from that performance.

He didn’t play a lot of football in the first half of the campaign at Molineux, and fatigue may have been a factor as to why he did wane as the game went on against Scunthorpe.

Nevertheless, having got 71 minutes under his belt, as well as 76 in the Checkatrade Trophy defeat to Chelsea under-21s, Ronan should be nearing full match fitness.

That subsequently will mean there will be more in his tank and he’s able to torment opponents for longer periods.

In addition, the more he plays, the more he will build a rapport with his team-mates.

He’ll become accustomed to what type of pass Brett Pitman likes into his feet, the sort of movement Kal Naismith makes off the ball, and how quick Jamal Lowe is if he’s to play a through ball.

Will the Blues stick with wing-backs?

Systems, systems, systems. It’s all that’s been talked about since last Saturday’s clash against Scunthorpe.

It was a surprise when Kenny Jackett switched to a 3-5-2 formation, although the decision ultimately earned Pompey a much-deserved point against their play-off rivals.

Nathan Thompson’s performance in the centre of midfield got plenty of deserved plaudits, while Jamal Lowe’s role at wing-back yielded a first goal since mid-September.

The question now is: will the Pompey boss deploy the same system at the New York Stadium or revert back to the 4-2-3-1 formation that has been utilised for the most part of the campaign?

The wing-back system made a maiden appearance in the reverse fixture against Rotherham in September.

However, Jackett ditched the tactics at half-time as the Blues struggled to come to grips their new set-up.

Nevertheless, that clash was over four months ago.

Since then, Jackett has stamped his authority on his side and got them playing the way he wants them to.

With the addition of Connor Ronan, Lowe’s and Dion Donohue’s defensive improvements and Thompson and Matt Clarke fully up to speed after their early-season injuries, the Pompey manager now has the players able to carry out the system sufficiently.

Yet, a defeat would see Rotherham leapfrog the Blues in the table and Jackett could set up to be slightly more defensive in order to return to the south coast with at least a point.

Can Jackett overcome the flak?

Millers fans have no doubt been waiting for this opportunity ever since Kenny Jackett walked out of the door at the New York Stadium.

The Pompey boss quit as Rotherham manager after just 39 days in charge last season.

After being appointed at the New York Stadium, Jackett said he’d always left a football club in a better condition than he found it.

That wasn’t the case in south Yorkshire, though.

Jackett has no regrets about leaving the Millers, having recorded just one draw and five defeats, and bears no grudge.

Yet the Rotherham faithful would have been seething at the time and likely haven’t forgotten.

Home fans are expected to give Jackett a hostile reception.

It may be the first time he seriously comes under any flak due to a personal vendetta.

But, being a straight-down-the-middle manager, it’s unlikely to affect him too much and he should be able to handle himself in the dug-out without letting it get to him.