What we learnt from Pompey defeat at U's

Will Rooney looks back on Pompey's defeat to Oxford and analyses the main taking points.

Monday, 14th August 2017, 11:22 am
Updated Tuesday, 12th September 2017, 11:26 am
Kal Naismith 'fed off scraps' against Oxford Picture: Joe Pepler

More attacking prowess needed

Luke McGee picking the ball out of his net three times in the second half suggests Pompey’s rearguard crumbled at the Kassam Stadium on Saturday.

In reality, it was quite the opposite.

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Kenny Jackett’s defence rarely put a wrong as Christian Burgess made a number of key challenges, with central defensive partner Jack Whatmough winning plenty of crucial headers.

It was in the final third of the pitch, however, where the Blues were frail and, inadvertently, putting pressure on their team-mates in the back line.

For all their talent going forward, chances were few and far between in the second half at Oxford.

Kal Naismith and Brett Pitman fed off scraps for the most part, with the former leading the front line.

Meanwhile, Kyle Bennett’s usual trickery and ability to have defenders on the back foot wasn’t at its usual standards.

For all the possession Pompey accumulated, they had nothing to show for it and were deserved losers.

In one-on-one situations, there were too many times when a blue shirt would turn and play a backwards or sideways ball, instead of going at their man to try to conjure a way of unlocking the opposition.

Oxford had pace and power on the break and when they did win the ball back, they left Pompey for dead on the counter-attack.

It will be a learning curve for Kenny Jackett’s troops, but bravery and prowess on the front are essential.

League One will be no Disney fairytale

It was the start Michael Eisner had dreamed about after completing his Pompey takeover.

The American billionaire was greeted with a roaring welcome by the Fratton faithful before last week’s win against Rochdale as his Blues era began in the best manner possible.

After putting a solid League One side to the sword, the momentum had carried on from the glorious 2016-17 League Two title-winning campaign against the Dale.

However, the Blues were given a harsh secondary introduction to the demands of the third tier at the Kassam Stadium, against a side who are harbouring promotion ambitions of their own.

The work-rate, intensity and step-up in ability was apparent, and the game was an early barometer of where Pompey currently are and the improvements they need to make if they’re to muster a top-half finish.

The honeymoon period is over for Jackett and his troops, and there’s plenty of work on the training ground needed.

Lalkovic and Lowe returns can’t come soon enough

Jackett opted to use just two substitutes against the U’s.

Carl Baker and Conor Chaplin emerged to replace Drew Talbot and Kal Naismith respectively in the second half as the visitors were forced to chase the game following the U’s’ opener on 47 minutes.

But while they tried to muster a response, their efforts fell short.

Pompey have limited options from the bench, with Jackett choosing not to send on the likes of Nicke Kabamba, Curtis Main or Ben Close to help try salvage a result.

However, Milan Lalkovic and Jamal Lowe will offer the Blues manager fresh options when they make their returns to the first-team frame.

The former relishes one-on-one situations where he can use his smooth skills to leave a defender for dead.

Lowe, meanwhile, has plenty of pace to power to get to the byline.

In Pompey’s two losses against Oxford and Cardiff, it has been their opponents’ substitutes who have made a key difference and that’s what the Blues are craving.

With Lalkovic and Lowe back in the fold, they give Jackett another dimension and serious options to bring on from the bench.