Portsmouth midfielder Andy Cannon adds key attribute he's lacked to his game at Oxford
Sports writer Will Rooney analyses the key talking points from Pompey’s 2-2 draw with Oxford in the EFL Trophy.
Cannon adding end product
No-one has ever doubted Andy Cannon's work-rate, energy nor commitment.
The one aspect of his game he has slightly lacked during his Pompey career, however, is end product.
Despite getting himself in decent positions – Blackpool away, in particular – the former Rochdale man has been unable to make a crucial impact in the final third.
Since the Blues switched to a 4-4-2 formation, he’s found himself down the pecking order, with Ben Close operating alongside Tom Naylor in the middle of the park.
Given the impressive goals Close has netted, as well as his assist at Doncaster on Saturday, that’s perhaps a prominent reason why he’s ahead of Cannon.
But the Spotland academy graduate highlighted he’s capable of contributing in front of goal at the Kassam Stadium.
Cannon showed composure after his darting run in the 33rd minute to cut back and pick out Josh Flint, before his deflected effort allowed Bradley Lethbridge to stab home from close range.
A secondary assist the in-vogue term used these days to describe his contribution.
There was no doubting who set up Anton Walkes’ 85th-minute goal, though. Cannon’s perfectly-weighted lofted pass allowed the right-back to accelerate into space and poke beyond Simon Eastwood.
In an interesting side plot, Cannon’s battle with fellow Mancunian, Cameron Brannagan, also provided entertainment.
The Oxford man has proved a potent threat this season, scoring six goals in 16 appearances.
Both had their moments and the encounter would have undoubtedly been a close call on the judges’ scorecards.
Given Brannagan has been one of the brightest centre-midfielders in League One in the opening two months of the campaign, Cannon’s performance demonstrated he’s a valuable member of this Pompey squad.
If he can replicate those exploits in League One then he's capable of thrusting his way into Kenny Jackett's line-up.
Bass ready for the main stage
It was a goalkeeping performance that Joe Gallen fully expected.
And given how highly regarded Alex Bass is held at Fratton Park, his Kassam Stadium heroics wouldn't have been all that surprising to his team-mates, goalkeeping coach John Keeley or boss Kenny Jackett.
As match ratings go, this was as close to a 10/10 performance as they come.
The Fratton youth product made stop after stop in both halves to thwart a relentless Oxford attack.
The best stop of the lot came on the stroke of the interval when home defender Sam Long arrived late at the back post and headed with power – only for Bass to push the effort over the bar.
But the immediate response from the 21-year-old was even more impressive. Rather than bask in his glory, he regained his focus and came off his line to make a confident punch to clear the corner.
In the penalty shootout, Bass made an excellent sprawling stop when he got a strong hand onto Josh Ruffles’ spot-kick to take things to sudden death.
With Craig MacGillivray away on Scotland duty, there were calls from some fans to call Luke McGee out of the cold for Saturday's game against Gillingham given he has 100 Football League appearances compared to Bass’ one.
But given his dress rehearsal at Oxford, the Eastleigh talent is clearly ready to take to the main stage.
Another confidence boost
It’ll officially go down as a 2-2 draw with Pompey claiming the bonus point up for grabs.
But given how the Blues have started the campaign, the result will give them a boost.
Kenny Jackett’s men are still searching for confidence after a stuttering opening to the campaign.
By the manager’s admission, that won’t come overnight and it is hard-earned over a sustained period.
Yet for an under-strength team to clinch a draw against a League One rival who made few changes from their 2-2 stalemate with Accrington on Saturday bodes well.