Portsmouth host Leyton Orient tomorrow looking to bounce back from a disappointing away defeat to Doncaster eight days ago. Paul Cook’s men sit fourth in League Two, just four points behind third placed Carlisle ahead of the second half of the season. The South Coast club are looking to return back to the third tier but have been chasing down the top three all season. The loss at Doncaster was their first in six games but manager Paul Cook is looking for a reaction from his side.
Cook is quick to point out that despite his side occupying fourth spot, being in the automatic positions at the end of the season is all that is important. Speaking to portsmouthfc.co.uk yesterday “football can be a funny game, we left the ground after Luton, defensively sound, looking strong and the back five were very good. Two days later at Doncaster we were thinking what happened there. Football can be like that, takes it you up and down but what you have to have along the way is a strong mind and belief in what you do”.
He added “The season is not 23 games old, or 36 after 46 games whoever is in the top three will get promoted, we have to concentrate on ourselves and no-one else. We have to stand up and be counted”.
Last Time Out
Portsmouth play a 4-4-2 to 4-2-3-1 formation, giving the attacking players license to move across the pitch and across the front line.
Cook tends to impose an attacking style of play with his side looking to push forward and commit men forward. Both full backs have the license to push on and overlap their winger to create chances for their side.
The attacking full backs, help to support the attacking four players who are given license to move across the front line. Michael Smith has led the line in recent weeks with Kai Naismith supporting him with Carl Baker and Kyle Bennett in the wide areas. The two central midfielders provide cover for the attacking players to create and move forward.
With Cook talking about balance to his side, he appears to have found a settled core of players who play the majority of the recent games. 9 of the 11 starters vs Doncaster have played the last eight games including all of the Christmas fixtures (3 of these games have been at home)
Defensively Porstmouth have kept 11 clean sheets in 25 games including four in their last five game in all competitions. A major factor to this has been the settled back five that have started the last 11 league games : David Forde, Enda Stevens, Christian Burgess, Matt Clarke and Gareth Evans.
In those 11 games, they have kept six clean sheets conceding only nine goals in the process.
Gary Roberts is one of the league’s best in creating chances for his side. With his partnership with Connor Chaplin flourishing, the pair have been involved in a number of Portsmouth’s goals this season. Chaplin and Roberts have built the understanding that one will look to go in behind the defense while the other will come short to receive the ball. Roberts is very dangerous in between the midfield and defense, where he can thread balls through to Chaplin or the wide men.
Neither Roberts or Chaplin have started the last four matches however both will looking to earn recall after the defeat to Doncaster last time out. Chaplin staked his claim for a starting berth after netting a hat trick for the reserves in midweek.
Like most sides in the lower leagues, set pieces can be an integral part of success in matches. Portsmouth have aerial targets who will possess a danger in the penalty area tomorrow afternoon. Christian Burgess has netted three times this season for Portsmouth all from set pieces including the decisive goal between Orient and Portsmouth in October.
With the attacking quality that Portsmouth possess, they will commit men forward in attacking areas looking to get behind opposition defences.
The South Coast club have been awarded eight penalties this season already, with six being given at Fratton Park.
Portsmouth look to press their opponents high when they are in possession and look to nick to the ball creating overload in attacking areas. Pompey look to press their opponents at home more with first team coach Ian Foster describing their 2-2 draw with Reading on Tuesday as “a great game with two teams trying to play football in the right manner. It was a really high tempo game with both teams pressing the living daylights out of each other”.
Cook spoke on Thursday to portsmouthfc.co.uk “all of our good performances are when hardest we are the hardest working team on the pitch, our worse are when we are not working hard”. Cook stated that his team were not aggressive enough against Doncaster last weekend.
The highlights above, emphaise the way Portsmouth press the opposition but also shows that if they are caught themselves with too many men in advanced areas they can be pressed and punished too
Runners from Deep
Portsmouth have conceded poor goals this season and their last 6 goals conceded in the league could all be prevented with out individual errors. All three Doncaster goals last weekend could have been prevented with errors and poor marking.
Leyton Orient will need to watch the press from Portsmouth tomorrow afternoon as sides have not learnt about it this season including Orient in the first meeting between the sides.
Gary Roberts and Connor Chaplin will be threats if they start tomorrow while the Orient backline will have to watch the interchange in midfield between the three behind the striker.
Orient will have to be very aware of the attacking nature of both full back with Evans and Stevens both very adept in attacking areas. Both have scored and assisted this season from their full back position and will be looking to add to that tomorrow.