New Season, Same Old Story

Last updated : 07 August 2016 By Jim Bonner

Paul Cook and his team have failed to learn his lessons from last season if yesterday's match is anything to go by as Pompey failed to beat the ten men of Carlisle United at Fratton Park.

Whilst there were positives to come from the performance, the demons of poor defending from simple situations and not being able to break down negative teams reared their ugly heads once again.

Pompey had most of the ball and created far more chances than the Cumbrians yet fell behind to a simple goal. A long punt upfield was flicked on into the path of Reggie Lambe who ran past the sluggish Jack Whatmough before slotting past David Forde.

The game's turning point was when Jamie Devitt, who was booked early in the match for a foul, was given a second yellow card either for pulling a shirt or abusive language. It was a harsh decision either way but with the opposition down to ten men, the home fans were confident their side could turn things around.

That confidence grew when some excellent work from Gary Roberts on the right allowed him to square the ball to Carl Baker who fired the ball under Mark Gillespie for the equaliser as the first half ended with the hosts on top.

The second half saw Keith Curle's men employ a 9-0-0 formation as they looked to hold on for a draw against wave after wave of Pompey attacks. Michael Smith should have done better when he sent the ball wide from close range after Lalkovic picked him out whilst a couple of other excellent balls across goal saw no striker available to convert them.

Danny Rose was unlucky not to score as his shot beat Gillespie but cannoned off the woodwork whilst Baker also missed a couple of half-chances.

Michael Doyle was then thwarted by a couple of excellent saves from his long range efforts and the Carlisle goalkeeper refused to be beaten by substitute Kyle Bennett's low shot that was heading for the corner of the goal.

There can be no doubt that he was the visitors' man of the match as Pompey couldn't find a way past him when they did manage to carve out a chance against the nine-man Cumbrian wall. In the end, the Blues had to settle for a point as there were a smattering of boos coming from the Fratton End after the final whistle.

It was an all too familiar feeling for Pompey supporters as they left Fratton Park knowing that despite dominating the game against ten men, their team had dropped two points.

There will be questions as to why Cook didn't sieze the initiative at the break and put an extra striker on the pitch to give his team a better chance of converting the extra opportunities that the increased possession would bring.

And when he did finally bring on Conor Chaplin he withdrew (the admittedly poor) Michael Smith and stuck with the same 4-2-3-1 formation. It wasn't until Noel Hunt was brought on in the 83rd minute when Pompey had two forwards on the pitch.

Cook has to be bolder when his team plays at home because you can guarantee that Colchester will come to Fratton Park with a similar game plan to Carlisle in just under a fortnight's time.

The other main gripe to come from yesterday's match was how easily the defence were caught out for the opening goal. They weren't organised enough to forsee a simple long ball and Whatmough was beaten far too easily by Lambe for the goal.

Jack seems to lack pace and may well be more suited to a defensive midfield role but Matt Clarke needs to return ASAP to deal with the more direct attacks that League Two teams are known for.

There was also a moment in the first half where another simple direct attack caused problems as three players struggled to clear the ball under some pressure from a rare Carlisle attack. It was uncomfortable viewing and just highlights the lack of organisation the back four has when it's put under some pressure.

Drew Talbot didn't win many admirers on his debut, either. Ben Davies' boots were always going to be difficult to fill but his first touch was dreadful at times and he doesn't seem to possess the same quality on the ball as his predeccesor who, for the record, scored for Grimsby yesterday.

Still, there were positives to take from the match. The midfielders all looked excellent yesterday with Doyle being his usual self and Rose providing energy and bite alongside him as both were unlucky not to score. The attacking midfield trio also shone with Lalkovic impressing with his range of passing, Roberts looking sharper than ever whilst Baker should easily reach double figures with his eye for goal.

It's a shame that Pompey couldn't bag the second goal but a draw against a side that should challenge for promotion isn't the worst result ever and there are still 135 points to play for, so panic is completely unnecessary after day one of the season.

However, the defence need to be more organised and the manager needs to be braver if Pompey are to finally escape League Two.

Pompey Player Ratings

David Forde: 6 - Little to do.

Drew Talbot: 5 - First touch was poor.

Christian Burgess: 6 - Wasn't really worked.

Jack Whatmough: 5 - Beaten too easily for Carlisle's goal.

Enda Stevens: 6 - Solid enough.

Michael Doyle: 7 - Typical performance and unlucky not to score.

Danny Rose: 7 - Very energetic and also unlucky not to score.

Gary Roberts: 7 - Plenty of tricks and did well to tee up Baker for the goal.

Carl Baker: 8 - Shone on his debut despite scoring just the single goal.

Milan Lalkovic: 7 - Looks like he'll bag plenty of assists this season.

Michael Smith: 5 - Worked hard but nothing happened for him.


Alex Bass

Tom Davies

Adam Barton

Kyle Bennett (Lalkovic 68): N/A - One good shot saved but otherwise didn't make much of an impact.

Conor Chaplin (Smith 68): N/A - Had little of the ball and was swamped by Carlisle's back nine.

Curtis Main

Noel Hunt (Rose 83): N/A - Needed more time.