Talking points: Stevenage 3-0 Pompey

Mark McMahon takes a look back at Pompey's defeat at the hands of Stevenage and assesses the talking points.

Monday, 20th March 2017, 11:38 am
Updated Friday, 24th March 2017, 11:06 am
Conor Chaplin's Panenka backfired on him Picture: Joe Pepler

Square pegs in round holes

It was a tactical switch that promoted celebratory scenes at Carlisle,

Less than a month later, it stuck out like a sore thumb for the visit to Stevenage.

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Paul Cook’s decision to turn to a 3-5-2 formation from his favoured 4-3-2-1 at the Lamex Stadium initially came as something of a surprise.

But with in-form duo Kal Naismith and Kyle Bennett both injured for Saturday’s game, you sensed it was a decision forced upon him.

On paper, the like-for-like options to replace the attacking duo were Gary Roberts and Jamal Lowe.

Both, individually, are talented players in their own right.

But through no fault of their own, hardly in peak form at present.

Instead, Cook opted to draft the ring-rusty Tom Davies into his defence, while he also offered the ever-so-patient Noel Hunt the chance to impress upfront alongside Eoin Doyle.

In hindsight, it was a decision that backfired.

No-one could accuse those sent out to do a job of not fighting for the cause. The effort and commitment from all was there.

It’s just that the system didn’t work – on this occasion.

Square pegs in round holes sprung to mind, with players often forced into areas no-one was comfortable with.

No doubt, it was a system rehearsed time and again in training prior to kick-off.

But, in truth, the execution of the plan failed.

To their credit, Stevenage took full advantage and were worthy winners in the end.

They were the better side on the day, but you can’t help feel the Blues made life easy for them.

Substitutions when game had gone

It shouldn’t be forgotten that Pompey hit the bar twice in the first half at the Lamex.

Both Gareth Evans and Carl Baker were denied by the woodwork.

Meanwhile, who will ever forget Conor Chaplin’s missed penalty right at the death?

Such examples suggest that perhaps the defeat wasn’t as bad as the scoreline suggests.

And you’d be right.

However, with the Blues 2-0 down at the break and then three behind 41 seconds after the restart, could there have been a change in personal, if not tactics, earlier?

Both Gary Roberts and Nicke Kabamba were introduced into the action just after the hour mark.

By that stage, though, the chances of a Pompey comeback were very remote.

They were also straight swaps for Baker and Noel Hunt, meaning faith was kept in the 3-5-2 system that allowed the hosts to profit so much.

Chaplin was then given a run out with 17 minutes remaining, replacing Eoin Doyle.

But was that just a decision to give the Irishman, who made little impact, a breather, and give his replacement some much-needed game time?

The three substitutions made were all personnel you’d expect to be made when chasing the game.

But could they have been made a lot earlier?

Special talent pays the penalty

When it comes off, the Panenka is a joy to witness.

The cheekiest of penalties with the sole purpose of inflicting maximum embarrassment on the unsuspecting goalkeeper.

When it fails to go to plan, however, be prepared for the ridicule that’s sure to come.

Conor Chaplin will have been the butt of some Stevenage jokes when his attempted Panenka – a chipped effort from the penalty spot that goes straight down the middle – dropped right into the arms of wise old head Chris Day.

But you have to applaud the youngster for attempting the most audacious of efforts – even if it did make him look a bit foolish.

Such moments make him the special talent that he is.

And without those tricks up his sleeve he’d be just another average young player trying to make his name in a tough environment.

And we all know Chaplin’s not average!