Pompey Drop More Home Points

Last updated : 18 December 2016 By Jim Bonner

Pompey dropped two important points in the race for automatic promotion as they were held to a goalless draw by lowly Hartlepool United at Fratton Park.

In a similar story to many home matches under Paul Cook's tenure, Pompey dominated possession but could only muster minimal attempts on target and they were saved by ex-Portsmouth keeper Trevor Carson.

The only time Carson was beaten was when Gary Roberts' shot was cleared off the line by Scott Harrison. Otherwise, the Pools' keeper was equal to what Pompey could offer going forward as Michael Smith could only plant his free header into Carson's arms in the first half's other major chance.

Smith was also denied the second half's best chance for a winner as Carson produced an excellent save from point blank range whilst he made a more routine stop when Michael Doyle smashed the ball at him from distance.

There were numerous attempts off-target with Carl Baker the main culprit of wasting the chances he'd made for himself, the last one being in the eight minutes of stoppage time played due to Hartlepool's blatant time-wasting.

Even Conor Chaplin wasn't able to save the day as Carson kept out his close range header as the final whistle was greeted with a mixture of boos and applause to end what was an extremely frustrating day.

Whilst some people will simply claim that it was just a "bad day at the office" or criticise some of the players or the referee, in my mind, the majority of the blame for failing to win this game lies with the manager.

Hartlepool had conceded nine goals in their last two matches and Craig Hignett would have known that previous teams had come away from Fratton Park by playing for a draw. It should have therefore been obvious that the visitors would play for a point and show no attacking intent whatsoever.

With that in mind, why did Paul Cook persist to play six defensive-minded players outfield with just one striker up front? This was the perfect opportunity to play a more attacking system and blitz Hartlepool from the start rather than play the plodding, uninspiring sideways football that has contributed to a lack of atmosphere at Fratton Park recently.

Another question to be asked is why Gary Roberts still starts matches. His lack of pace is clear for all to see and he has contributed little to the cause since mid-September. He simply has to be dropped now but there's no way that Cook with have the balls to do it. What does Milan Lalkovic have to do to get a game!?

It was also amsuing to hear Michael Smith announced as the man of the match yesterday. Whilst he worked hard, his job as a centre forward is to score goals and he missed his big chances yesterday. Unfortunately introducing Chaplin to play alongside him didn't reap the rewards it should have due to too much tentative play from the midfield.

This 4-2-3-1 formation simply doesn't work against the majority of teams that visit Fratton Park and know exactly what to expect. Poor home form was costly last season and unless Cook can change his ways and figure out a solution to improve on it, it will be his downfall again this season.

Yesterday's poor result was compounded by Pompey's four main promotion rivals all winning. Whilst they remain fourth in League Two on goal difference from Luton, they're now seven points from the top three and nine points from the summit.

Let's just be thankful that the remaining two fixtures of 2016 are away from home!

Pompey Player Ratings

David Forde: 6 - Nothing to do.

Gareth Evans: 6 - Had one long range shot saved, even though the referee awarded a goal kick!

Christian Burgess: 6 - Won't have a more comfortable afternoon all season.

Matt Clarke: 6 - Did what little he had to do effectively.

Enda Stevens: 6 - Not quite the usual force going forward from full back.

Michael Doyle: 5 - Passing was wayward.

Danny Rose: 7 - Another energetic display.

Carl Baker: 6 - Needs to practice his finishing as he can do all the hard work before it.

Gary Roberts: 4 - Needs to be dropped.

Kyle Bennett: 4 - Threat was nullified from the start.

Michael Smith: 6 - Worked hard but missed chances.


Liam O'Brien

Tom Davies

Amine Linganzi

Milan Lalkovic

Kal Naismith (Bennett 68): 6 - Whipped in a couple of decent crosses.

Conor Chaplin (Roberts 68): 6 - Denied late on.

Noel Hunt (Rose 90): N/A - Four minutes of stoppage time is no time to make a difference.