|Portsmouth 0 v 4 Ipswich Town|
SkyBet League One
Tuesday, 19th October 2021 Kick-off 19:45
We Are Top-Half Contenders - Notes for Portsmouth
Monday, 18th Oct 2021 16:00
As Town head to Fratton Park, Portsmouth for their second away game in four days, TomTheWriter assesses the mood in the opposition camp.
After another disappointing collapse away from home, Ipswich Town head into a crunch match against another pre-season promotion hopeful.
Their opponents, Portsmouth, started the season with three straight wins but have since picked up only one victory from their last nine league games with pressure mounting on Danny Cowley.
So far this season,Pompey have picked up four wins, three draws and five defeats in 12 league games and will be looking to bounce back from a heavy loss last time out, Saturday’s 4-1 reverse at Rotherham.
Last season, John Marquis was imperious in front of goal, Republic of Ireland international Ronan Curtis offered power and pace off the left with Craig MacGillivray proving resolute between the sticks.
“Well, Danny [Cowley]. The go-kart bonding obviously went very well! They looked like they'd never seen each other before, let alone played with each other”, “Totally out of his depth, he got lucky at Lincoln and is somehow still living off of it”, “It's all about the manager’s attitude, he's made it plain he doesn't give a toss about the EFL Trophy, but that tells the players that he picks that he's not bothered whether they win or not, the result of that is what happened Tuesday.”
Pompey boss Cowley joined the south-coast side in March of 2021, tasked with overseeing their play-off push at the end of last season.
“I'm not surprised the Cowleys are struggling to get a decent team out. They have signed 14 players mostly near the start of the season, of which the only decent ones aren't even ours and a fair few got injured just by signing a contract”, “Cowley has not been allowed to build a squad as he would have wanted”, “Cowleys are as safe as houses, [chairman Michael] Eisner won’t pay them off and they aren’t going to leave without a pay-off.”
This season, the Cowley brothers - Danny’s younger brother Nicky is his assistant - have overseen a big rebuild at Fratton Park, but have had to do so on a minimal budget due to the work being undertaken on the stadium.
Two Points Adrift
“The Cowleys had a week to prepare them for this game and it appears they couldn’t even get them to show some pride”, “A lacklustre, spineless performance in such a big game”, “It's been a horrible season and so pleased it's now over. I'd not be upset if every one of those out of contract walked out the door and the remainder who think they're too good to be at Fratton Park agitated for moves.”
Portsmouth spent the majority of last season in the play-offs, looking for a return to the Championship. Previous manager Kenny Jackett kept Pompey within touching distance of the play-offs, but his style of football made them unbearable to watch. The Cowley brothers pushed the club back into the play-off spots with one game to go, but it wasn’t to be.
In their final game of the season, they went down 1-0 at home to Accrington Stanley, ending their hopes for a third consecutive play-off campaign.
“Really poor first half. Huffed and puffed in second without the killer instinct”, “A squad that have always under performed in big games. Kenny probably knew what he was about when he set them up to get 0-0 with an odd goal. They are simply not good enough to do better than that”, “If it took next season to blend together a squad and the following to actually go for broke and promotion I'd be happy - anything else but this!”
After missing out on the play-offs last season, Cowley set about rebuilding the side into something he could lead into the second tier.
Pompey’s midfield was torn to pieces this summer with Tom Naylor, Andy Cannon, Bryn Morris and Ben Close all departing for pastures new. Full-back Callum Johnson left for fellow League One side Fleetwood Town with academy graduate Jack Whatmough leaving for the new project at Wigan Athletic.
Striker Jordy Hiwula and energetic midfielder Ryan Williams departed for Doncaster Rovers and Oxford United respectively with five futher players leaving at the end of their loan spells.
Six of the starting XI remain from their 1-0 defeat at home to Accrington Stanley with one of the bench still at the club.
Strength-wise, the Pompey fans have found little to be excited about with the squad they have put together this season.
“Defensively looking OK”, “We have two decent wingers for this league. We have several half-decent midfield players”, “Too busy recruiting umpteen defensive midfielders.”
However, they have been more open about their struggles and where their club is looking talent, specifically at the back.
“Need to start playing to our strengths which is not passing it out of defence and passing it backwards and forwards across the backline”, “I think based on last night's performance it's clear we have no [strength in depth]”, “Hopeless at the back (apart from [Sean] Raggett) no midfield control and no strikers.”
Rotherham United 4-1 Portsmouth
“Three-one, we need to bin this three-at-the-back as soon as possible. It’s also absolutely criminal we don’t buy another centre back and striker”, “Oh dear oh dear, another free header gifted by the Pompey defence surely to put the game beyond us at 3-1. A good first 30 minutes followed by defensive errors… and another mistake makes it 4-1”, “OK this is embarrassing now.”
“How a manager can put a defence together as bad as this one is beyond me”, “We tried this defence to cover for a raft of injuries and the fact we could not score. Seems time to ditch the experiment and get back to four at the back, at least away from home where we are looking a nice team to play against”, “I’ve turned iFollow off. It’s too painful to watch.”
Despite favouring a 4-2-3-1 formation last season, Cowley has been working with a three-at-the-back system for the past few games due to the injuries suffered to his defenders.
Portsmouth 0-2 Sutton United
“Those who think we should get out of all the cups early should be happy”, “So disappointing to watch players we presume to be on the verge of being considered for first team selection fail to deliver and display failings in effort against a League Two team that contained second-choice players”, “I can't for the life of me see how [George] Hirst has managed to become a professional footballer.”
“Our lack of quality outside our first team was horribly exposed tonight. Sutton ruled the game start to finish and the scoreline could have been even worse”, “It was a dire match to watch with misplaced passes, lack of ball control, too many long balls, no cohesion, an altogether miserable spectacle”, “[Gassan] Ahadme had a poor game and never threatened at all and Hirst ran around without making any impression.”
In Pompey’s second Papa John’s Trophy match, they fell to a 2-0 defeat at home to League Two Sutton United. Making wholesale changes, the second-string players didn’t do enough to push for a starting spot.
“[Gavin] Bazunu is an enormous plus as he’s made some amazing saves and often starts off our attacks with excellent distribution”, “Now a Bazunu howler of the first order to bring it to 2-1, you couldn’t make this up”, “Promising youngsters like Bazunu are one thing, able to make a significant contribution and an improvement on what we have.”
Young Republic of Ireland international goalkeeper Bazunu joined Pompey on loan from Manchester City in the summer, having spent last season with Rochdale at the other end of the table. Has settled in very well and looks to be one of their standout players this season.
“Not done much wrong in the few games he's had. Unlucky that Bazunu is so good”, “[Alex Bass is] either League One standard or he isn't”, “He has been belting the ball down aimlessly the park for the past few games and is never going to be number one under Cowley while he continues to do that.”
At the club since 2016, goalkeeper Bass has played second fiddle to a lot of goalkeepers over the year and finds himself behind Bazunu as it currently stands.
“Done very well down the right flank and gives us a good attacking option on that side. Direct and strong, perhaps needs to improve crossing”, “Several first team players disgraced themselves in Tuesday night's utterly wretched display [against Sutton], particularly [Mahlon] Romeo who was dreadful”, “Romeo looks good.”
Flying full-back Romeo was incorrectly rumoured to be of interest to Ipswich this summer. Finds himself at Portsmouth on loan from Millwall for the season and has rotated between right-back and right midfield.
“[Kieron] Freeman was several times out of position or on the wrong side but then he is not a central defender. Hopefully he can grow into the position if we stick with it”, “Cowley couldn’t wait to get [Callum] Johnson out and bring in Freeman, that’s worked out well hasn’t it! Freeman was dire today”, “I'd add [Joe] Morrell, Freeman and [Clark] Robertson to the list of good Cowley signings.”
Experienced defender Freeman spent last season with Swindon Town and Swansea City before settling at Fratton Park after his release by the latter. Has found himself played in an unfamiliar centre-back role for the past few games.
“I don’t understand how we were in a position to pay around £450,000 for [Charlton striker Jayden] Stockley, didn’t spend it and now are talking about £15,000 for [Liam] Vincent being our biggest spend of the summer”, “His best position maybe left-sided centre-back or converted into midfield or winger.”
Young defender Vincent was Cowley’s first signing of the season, joining from non-league Bromley. Yet to feature due to injury, looks to be one for the future.
“Losing Robertson was a big blow and lack of another centre back could still cost us”, “Replacing sicknote Jack [Whatmough] with sicknote Robertson wasn't a good idea”, “Out of action until at least Christmas, which leaves just Raggett and [Paul] Downing in central defence.”
Summer signing Robertson was bought in to replace Whatmough, but has found himself on the sidelines for the past month and doesn’t look to be returning for a while.
“Wonder if this was Downing’s last game for us”, “[Shaun] Williams needs to be dropped and Downing (an actual centre-back) brought in”, “Downing can probably do a reasonable job in a back four.”
Signed from Blackburn back in 2019, Downing seems to find himself as an unfavoured centre-back at Pompey. Has only featured on three occasions this season and looks to be behind a number of players.
“I'm sure [Connor] Ogilvie will play as soon as he is fit. That was what he was bought for”, “Bringing Ogilvie in appears to have weakened the defence. Is this correct?”, “Looks a bit old and slow to me. Again, should be in defence ahead of Williams in my opinion, but got himself injured it seems.”
Another signing for the defence, Ogilvie left fellow League One side Gillingham in the summer with there having been an expectation of a Championship move. Can play at left-back and centre-back and has just returned from injury.
“Lee Brown, our top scorer!”, “Brown also incapable of blocking crosses lately”, “Why was Brown not closing the winger down for the cross? Get tight and get tight quick. Make the bloke take you on, see him down the side or make him play backwards. Or give him 12 yards to put a cross in that they score from.”
Senior option Brown has been with the club since 2018 and has been a constant threat behind Curtis since his arrival. Has three goals to his name this season having moved to the left midfield position.
“Brown would be happier in a back four”, “He's OK, nothing more”, “OK in parts but lots of loose passes.”
However, there are a few fans who are not as sold on him as others, especially with him entering a stage of his career where he may not be a solid as he was when he arrived. Naturally a left-back, his advanced role may not be suited to him.
“We haven't put three passes together. Absolutely dire, only [Sean] Raggett doing anything”, “Only Raggett was as dominant as usual”, “There seems almost a reluctance to accept that Raggett is a very good player. He made a couple of mistakes sure but he has always obviously been a good player.”
Raggett scores against Town
Centre-back Raggett has been arguably Portsmouth’s strongest defender this season, constantly having to change who he partners with as injuries start to pile up. Has been with the club a few years now and scored the controversial winner in the FA Cup against Town last season.
“If Raggett picks up an injury we will be horribly exposed that's for sure!”, “It seems that he likes players that are a bit ropey and then coaches them into being decent. Raggett the obvious example there”, “I know he doesn’t look stylish and elegant but he is a very good centre-half indeed, I sometimes wonder if the people who pass judgement on players ever really watch them play before handing down their pronouncements.”
Not someone who catches the eye for his ball skills, Raggett has been doing the basics of defending well for the season. Will be interesting to see how he fairs up against Macauley Bonne.
“Three games ago, [Joe] Morrell was being slaughtered by some on here, now he’s an integral part”, “Didn't see what we'd signed in the first few games but has been excellent the last three or four. Very good going forward and will be key this season”, “Morrell had a decent game and probably our only decent midfielder.”
Suffolk-born Morrell was a Town target in the summer but at a time when he had all but agreed to join Portsmouth from Luton. The Welsh international is one of the better players in the midfield for Pompey this season and looks to be a battler in the trenches.
“Williams is slow but technically very good”, “Williams needs to be dropped”, “Playing three at the back might work if one of them wasn’t Williams. He’s not a defender.”
The experienced Williams was brought in as a midfielder, but has found himself at centre-back for a lot of the last month. Technically limited, his reading of the game has helped him through in an unfamiliar position.
“He will need to be playing [Miguel] Azeez more if he wants more Arsenal youth”, “What's going on there? Is he injured? Fallen out with Cowley?”, “Azeez flitted in and out of the games but hardly influenced the result.”
Young midfielder Azeez has joined Pompey on loan from Arsenal for the season with Cowley hoping to make a similar impact on his career as he did for Emile Smith Rowe at Huddersfield. Struggled for game-time recently.
“By all accounts, [Louis] Thompson was the only one of the fringe players who made any impression at all. He does seem to be pushing hard”, “I think will get a lot more game-time soon and hopefully will show us what he's capable of”, “Not seen enough of Thompson to know if he is worth another season.”
After his release by Norwich this summer, Thompson had been working with Pompey to boost his fitness before signing a deal and finally featuring for the club in the Papa John’s Trophy. Looks to be someone highly rated by the fans.
“Ahadme - incapable of controlling the ball”, “Had little game-time then got the cold shoulder. Seemed to need too much time on the ball in the little I've seen of him. Had an incredible pre-season but when the chips are down...”, “Where is the player from pre-season? He's slow and falls over a lot!”
On loan from Town’s local rivals Norwich City, Ahadme was the trialist of the summer between July and August. His excellent displays in pre-season saw him join up with the senior squad but he hasn’t impressed at all since the season proper got under way.
“The 20-year-old winger/striker has just signed a 12-month deal. He’s been good for Pompey in the pre-season games so far. Has loads of pace and dribble”, “Jayden Reid out for some time. Cruciate ligament injury requiring surgery. Speedy recovery to him”, “With Reid pretty much gone for the season, midfield and left side attacking is getting desperate.”
Young midfielder Reid will not play against Ipswich and probably not in the reverse fixture either. Damaged his cruciate in pre-season, and looks to be out for the season.
“[Michael] Jacobs is a ball player but Cowley won't play him because he doesn't run around like a headless chicken”, “Played very little, injured then seems to have fallen out with Cowley. Don't think he'd do any worse than [Ryan] Tunnicliffe”, “Real shame Jacobs didn't perform well because I rate him above Curtis.”
Jacobs was very close to joining the Blues in the summer but returned to Portsmouth after his move broke down at the last minute when Town opted to sign Kyle Edwards instead. Has only played four times this season and looks to be a back-up to the current attackers ahead of him.
“A lot of endeavour, not much end product. A League One player I suppose. Often tries to be too clever when something simpler would be better. A frustrating player as he should be offering much more”, “Realistically, only [Marcus] Harness is worth keeping out of that lot”, “Harness and Marquis are decent at this level.”
The goalscorer in the weekend 4-1 defeat to the Millers, Harness has been a key member of the Pompey attack for the past few seasons and is the club’s top goalscorer this season.
“Harness has always flattered to deceive (no end product) and has done so for three seasons”, “Tries to make things happen, gets in some crosses, wins lots of corners but not much end product. Too intent on little tricks maybe”, “What a great finish by Harness.”
Despite his goals this season, the supporters are not big fans of Harness and don’t seem to think he is playing that well for the club. Will be interesting to see how he performs on Tuesday.
“Great first couple of games but distinctly ordinary since then. Needs to step up or Thompson will take his place”, “One goal first game, looked good. Gone seriously backwards”, “Leave Tunnicliffe a bit deeper where he seems best suited.”
Ex-Blues loanee Tunnicliffe was a marquee signing for Portsmouth this season after his release from Luton Town this summer. Started the season very well, but looks to have tailed off in the last month.
“In midfield I do rate Tunnicliffe, he goes unnoticed but does a great job linking midfield with attack”, “Tunnicliffe started well but has become a non-entity”, “There is not that much wrong with Williams and Tunnicliffe.”
Looks to be forming a partnership with Morrell this season and they will need to make their Luton connection count this season if they are to climb the table, starting with the Ipswich game.
“He’s on loan and apparently can be recalled, if that’s the case we need to send him back in January”, “Dreadful excuse of a footballer, living off his dad's coat-tails. Talk about chalk and cheese. Let's not forget, he's on loan from a Premier League club! Just let that sink in”, “Haven't seen him do one positive thing yet. Slow, not skilful, not even very good in the air. What do we need him for?”
Having looked through 15 forums so far this season, the above is the most scathing review of a player so far. Leicester City loanee George Hirst hasn’t started his spell with Portsmouth very well and doesn’t look comfortable in their side.
“Needs to calm down at times. I think we'll need him to be on form as nobody else seems to score goals”, “His understanding with Brown which has been excellent for the last two seasons is just not working so far this season”, “Miss the threat of Curtis.”
Star-attacker Curtis was absent from the Rotherham United game due to suspension, but returns for the Ipswich game on Tuesday night. Has two goals and two assists in four games against Town.
“Scored two crackers now but has not done much else. Pretty anonymous most of the time”, “Does nothing else except loses control of the ball”, “Agree about [Reeco] Hackett-Fairchild, nowhere near League One standard.”
Young attacker Hackett-Fairchild has been in and around the first team for the whole season having featured in every game so far this season bar two. Has two goals to his name as well.
Former Town Number 10
“More of a threat than [John] Marquis but that's not saying much”, “Now [Ellis] Harrison is injured, five minutes after coming on”, “The Cowleys failed in the transfer window to deliver an average striker and couldn’t move Harrison or Marquis on.”
Ex-Town striker Ellis Harrison departed the East Anglian side when they were relegated to League One, leaving for Pompey. Has 19 goals across three seasons for Portsmouth, three of those coming this season.
“Always offside or giving away unnecessary free-kicks. Is incapable of bringing a ball under control quickly, an absolute prerequisite for a striker”, “Marquis is a joke even at this level! He needs far too many chances to score. No wonder we had no takers for him!”, “Cowley is just clutching at straws and insists on giving Marquis a starting place every league game when he hasn't got a clue what his best team is.”
Marquis has been one of League One’s strongest strikers for the past few seasons, hitting double digits for goals in three of his last four years at this level.
“Marquis isn't fit to lace [Brett Pitman’s] boots! Work-rate means nothing if you're not scoring goals, end of”, “Marquis has two decent chances and bottled them”, “Marquis is so far above the other strikers we have.”
However, his displays this season have not endeared him to the fans, despite getting three goals and two assists from his 11 games. Currently the first-choice striker, but it might not be for long if the fans get their way.
Portsmouth Fans on ITFC
“Ipswich can be good but tend to ship goals, so we should win that”, “Ipswich have spent loads on a complete rebuild and are struggling far worse than us”, “If you want a laugh have a look at this miss from Macauley Bonne last night [against Cheltenham Town] that would have put Ipswich two-up”, “If Ipswich can bring in a craggy veteran to look over [Paul] Cook's shoulder, perhaps Harry [Redknapp] fancies a watching brief, especially around the transfer windows”, “If it goes wrong for Ipswich, they will be left with a very expensive squad on long contracts who are not good enough for them. Could get very messy for them.”
“Results-wise I think it matches my pre-season expectations of mid-table. It’s not been pretty but have performances improved since last year? I'd say some have, some haven't”, “I'm keeping my expectations low and enjoying the (unexpected) points haul”, “Rotherham are promotion contenders. We are top-half contenders.”
The main forum for a Portsmouth fan is the True Blue Army forum, a comprehensive and extensive area for all Portsmouth fans to dive into. Another website worth a look is our sister site over on FansNetwork Pompey Fans.
Photo: Matchday Images
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