Jake Smith reviews Crawley Town vs Portsmouth – 18th of August 2015 – checkatrade.com Stadium. 

The start of the game was impressive and nothing short of exciting. Although Pompey were keeping the game at the pace they wanted it at, the Blues’ would every so often decide to make a few quick breaks and completely rip apart the defenders and catch them out.

However, we couldn’t capitalise on the fact that we were controlling the game and the finishing touches going into the Crawley box was dismal.

It was such a shame that we couldn’t grab the 3 points that we so thoroughly deserved, despite this it was clearly a point gained for a defensive Crawley Town team.

Similarly to recent games, Brian Murphy was not called upon much during the 90 minutes, bar the only 2 decent opportunities that the home side had, one of which a nerve biting attack right at the death of the game!

The game was decided much in the defensive areas of both teams, although in two very different manners. The home side, who were clearly not up to the challenge and were very happy with the point, would play defensively, very defensively, putting as many players in their own half and in their own box during all Pompey attacks and set pieces.

For the travelling team, Pompey, it was clear from the very beginning that Paul Cook and his men were intending to play very attacking, playing the ball nicely along the floor and taking advantage of the fact that they have two fantastic wingers, Bennett and Evans, amongst their starting line-up.

As a midfield, Atangana and Doyle played really well and were the two best players on the pitch in my opinion, they would close down balls sharply, putting their bodies on the line and giving 100% for the crest that is being worn on their chest. Not only were they solid defensively (during the odd Crawley attack), the pair were also quick in playing the ball forward to the players in front of them: Roberts, Bennett and Evans.

This was the case throughout he entire duration of the game and not once did I feel that what they were doing with the ball was wrong or poor. The first half was filled with many Portsmouth attacks, keeping the travelling Pompey faithful firmly on the edge of their seats in the tent of an away seated area and on the tips of the toes in the atmospheric terrace part of the stadium.

The second half wasn’t too different, as the Blues’ were now shooting towards their own fans, the excitement builded more and more as the game progressed, especially with the knowledge that the game was going our way and all of our previous 7 goals in the last 3 games had all come in the second half, the final 45 minutes looked an exciting prospect.

Despite this, the players could not capitalise on the 61% possession that they had throughout the 94 minutes, nor the 8 corners in our favour to Crawley’s 0, and ended up drawing the game 0-0.

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[BBC]

When we look back at the result and the overall performance of the squad during the 0-0 draw at Crawley, Pompey fans and players alike will know that a point against a team who have just been relegated from the league above and one that did nothing but “park the bus” for the entire game, is not too bad a result!

In my opinion, 7 points out of 9 in the opening few weeks of the season is just what we need. Although a 100% record would have been nice, I feel as though a lot of teams who start off like that often drop around November/December, and we certainly do not want to be that team.

It’s nice to have some stability, we can’t win every game and the odd point on the road against very defensive opposition on a bitter Tuesday night is something that will really give the players a wake up call and keep their feet on the ground.

I’d much rather that than be too confident, boasting about a great record only for it to be quickly smashed and finish in a poor position.

You look at Tranmere Rovers and their situation, they were top of League One for the first half/two-thirds of the season and ended up very poorly, relegated the following season and, well, now look at them!

Not only Tranmere but Leyton Orient, if my memory is correct they played the first 8 games of their season not too long ago and won each and every one of them, like Tranmere, they were relegated the following season and are now in League Two. We don’t want to be that team, we don’t want to do what Morecambe did last season and what Newport also did, top for the first period of the season only to finish poorly.

Keeping our feet on the ground and bursting into the top 3 towards the final half of the season is something that I feel will be successful.

Player ratings and notes:

Brian Murphy: Not called upon much, however when needed produced just what a team needs a goalkeeper to do – 7

Enda Stevens: Showed good attacking intent as well as impressive defensive clearances, calm and composed footwork and a good attitude to the game – 8

Christian Burgess: As proven in the opening games and friendlies too, Burgey offers good strength and wins all headers that are put on a plate for him. A real character and defensive leader that the team needs and tonight was no exception – 9

Matt Clarke: Against a Crawley side who defended non-stop for the entire game, the defenders did not have much to do but when the ball did reach them, whether it be a back pass or to head the ball clear, both Burgess and Clarke were efficient, being cool and composed when passing the ball and eradicating any danger from the Crawley attacks – 8

Ben Davies: When Pompey were so desperate to sign a right back, it was feared that we wouldn’t find a decent one, or one at all in time for the start of the season. However, when the news broke that Davies had officially signed, a huge sigh of relief came across everyone at Pompey and tonight he proved his worth when needed – 8

Michael Doyle:  A real leader in the squad, I had thought at the start of the season that Roberts would be captain however Doyle has really shown true leadership qualities and has also played very well, the Crawley game was no exception and he seems to be influencing the players around him, consequently making his teammates play better too! – 9

Nigel Atangana: Having previously spoken about the amazing work that Michael Doyle has put into the team, the biggest impact he has had in my opinion is the growth of his partner in midfield Nigel Atangana. Last season, Big Nigel had some good games but hadn’t really burst into the starting XI too many times. However, this season he has come back a much better player and has proven the doubters wrong, the Crawley game was his best so far in a Pompey shirt in my opinion! – Man of the Match, 9

Gary Roberts: The most talked about, the most controversial and therefore the biggest transfer in Pompey’s history as a fan owned club. Roberts has bought a huge attacking style to the south coast alongside the mastermind tactics of his pal and manager Paul Cook, he has settled really well and played exceptionally well against Crawley, however it was frustrating at times when some of his balls didn’t quite reach the players in the middle. It was clear that Robbo shared similar opinions of the game as I and many other Pompey fans, tweeting his thoughts below! – 8

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Kyle Bennett: This guy has shown incredible pace, skill and a great attitude since joining Pompey and is quickly becoming a fan favourite, similarly to his teammates, the game against Crawley last night was no exception and had some of his crosses/chances ended up in the back of the net, whether from a shot of his own or from a teammate, Bennett would have been given my man of the match without a shadow of a doubt! – 9

Gareth Evans: During the majority of games played up and down the country, you will have a player on every team who doesn’t quite live up to the expectations and is somewhat frowned upon by the fans, some players have bad days and some are just overshadowed by the overwhelming performances of those around him. This was the case last night at the checkatrade.com stadium, much to Gareth’s disappointment! – 6

Matt Tubbs: Due to the little service that had reached Tubbsy in the box, and the poor display from the linesman (not bias at all…) Tubbs was unfortunate but did get into some good positions and at times played well off the ball to try and open up play for Pompey – 7

Subs:

Adam McGurk: Came on for Davies and posed as a clear statement of attacking intent to the opposition and did not disappoint! He was everywhere during the final 40ish minutes that he played – 7

Jayden Stockley: Similar to McGurk, Jayden wore his heart on his sleeve and really tried his upmost best (as usual) to try and help Pompey to break past the bus of a Crawley defence! – 7

Conor Chaplin: Do I really need to talk about Chaplin, we all know about Conor and his incredible talent to change a game, he was just unfortunate that he couldn’t make help Pompey to get the 3 points, however was impressive and had some good moments when helping those around him to advance forward – 8

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Were Crawley not told of the change in badge that Pompey had implemented a while back? The guys at the programme department definitely were not told and it was disappointing to see the programme covered in the old 2008-2015 badge. Finally, on a less important yet very serious note, it was annoying to find that one of the kiosks had run out of hot food for a short period of the game and then when it came back, they had a shortage of cheese and tomato ketchup! What is the world coming to?

Out of the 4,003 fans at the stadium little over 1,700 were Pompey supporters! That’s a big portion of the stadium that were followers of the away team! It was also clear that the Pompey fans were much much louder than the Crawley fans, who by the way were so quiet I could hear the thoughts of the people around me…

7 points out of a possible 9, still unbeaten under Paul Cook in all competitions after 4 games, sitting pretty at 5th. Patience is something that Pompey fans will need throughout the entire season! For once, it’s nice to have no negatives when it comes to watching/talking about Pompey!

Thanks for reading, I’ll try and write some more match reviews in the future, providing this one becomes popular amongst Pompey fans and if you feel as though it was an interesting read, please do not hesitate to give me feedback and feel free to follow me on Twitter @JakePompeySmith.

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