Late Roberts Double Downs U's

Last updated : 21 August 2016 By Jim Bonner

Two late goals from Gary Roberts were enough for Portsmouth to earn their first win of the season against a stubborn Colchester United side.

It wasn't the greatest of games and the frustrating first half is barely worth talking about. Pompey struggled to break the U's down but were reluctant to pass the ball forward and instead continued to pass it sideways without penetrating the Colchester defence.

There was one triple chance at the end of the half when a cross into the box found Curtis Main whose shot was saved by Sam Walker. The U's keeper was then equal to Danny Rose's follow up and the loose ball was blasted over the bar by Main. As for the opposition, their zero attempts on goal highlighted their game plan clearly.

The second half began as slowly as the first with little in the way of chances being created. Paul Cook finally responded to the fans' demands to bring on Conor Chaplin and to play two up front as Noel Hunt also made his way onto the pitch as Pompey reverted to a diamond shaped 4-4-2 formation.

That move certainly opened the game up but it was Colchester who almost drew first blood as David Forde was finally given some work to do to palm Craig Slater's shot away.

Chaplin's influence on the game was clear to see as he beat two men before chipping the ball just beyond the far post but the deadlock was finally broken thanks to a silly challenge by Drey Wright on Roberts inside the box with ten minutes remaining.

The Pompey midfielder steeled himself and blasted the resulting spot kick straight down the centre of the goal to open his account for the season.

The game was put to bed four minutes later when Chaplin picked out Roberts' run with an excellent pass over the top and the latter produced a superb chip to beat the onrushing Walker and score his second goal of the afternoon. Paul Cook's reaction was priceless as it looked like he was also going to burst into the "we've got Gary Roberts song" such was his mixture of joy and relief.

There was still work to do at the back as Forde made a brilliant double save to preserve his clean sheet and spare any stoppage time nerves for the home fans who went away from Fratton Park content that their team has finally won a match this season despite the earlier struggles.

It was Paul Cook's tactical switch that ended up changing the game but you have to wonder if Pompey would have won were it not for a stupid mistake from Wright who gave away the penalty and forced Colchester out of their defensive shell once they went a goal down.

And when they did come out to attack, they did create some chances. Colchester's pacy wingers got past the Pompey full backs too easily and it was only some last-ditch defending and a couple of excellent saves from Forde that prevented Pompey from conceding.

It seems like the defence still lacks organisation and are vulnerable to direct attacks. How would it cope against a team that dares to attack them from the start and put the back four under a period of sustained pressure? That's the real test for them, if any opposing manager has the balls to actually have a go at Fratton Park.

Cook admitted that he's going to have to think about changing his game plan for home matches as he's surprised that so many teams are coming to Fratton and playing such negative football. What games was he watching last season?

The cynics will claim that the manager dropped Michael Smith and made those attacking changes just after the hour because he bowed to pressure from the fans. Hopefully that isn't the case but the way his team played once he made those changes will certainly have given him food for thought, and just when his team are going forward as they looked suspect defensively when the formation changed.

Still, most fans will have taken a win under any circumstances yesterday and the hurdle of getting the first victory of the season has now been cleared. Now the attention turns to Exeter next week and they are one team that will come out and attack as Paul Tisdale isn't a man who will compromise his attacking philosophy.

It'll be interesting to see just how Pompey's shaky defence copes with that come Saturday.

Pompey Player Ratings

David Forde: 7 - A couple of key saves late in the game.

Drew Talbot: 6 - Good going forward but gets beaten by pace too easily.

Christian Burgess: 7 - Got in the way of most threatening balls into the box.

Adam Barton: 6 - Wasn't really tested.

Enda Stevens: 6 - Solid enough.

Michael Doyle: 7 - Tough to get past.

Danny Rose: 6 - Settled in nicely.

Gary Roberts: 8 - Ended up being the difference maker.

Carl Baker: 5 - Virtually anonymous in the first half. Need to see more from him.

Kyle Bennett: 6 - One wayward shot but worked hard.

Curtis Main: 5 - Doesn't offer much more than Smith based on this match.


Liam O'Brien

Tom Davies

Amine Linganzi (Rose 86): N/A - Looked to have some skill on the ball.

Gareth Evans

Milan Lalkovic

Conor Chaplin (Main 62): 7 - Added some extra attacking quality.

Noel Hunt (Bennett 62): 6 - Ran around a lot.