Isle of Wight   Pompey Supporters Club
The Chairman & Old Sage's View on Being a Pompey Supporter, Life & Everything Else  ...

As someone who was absent without leave on Saturday and had to rely on Radio Solent I find it difficult to offer up a different opinion to the Old Sage. 

I’m still finding it difficult to explain the damned thing but whose complaining? Eight games unbeaten and top of the league...almost dreamland. I said ‘almost’. Let’s be realistic we’re hardly playing teams off the park with open entertaining football but the truth is we have an excellent well marshalled defence and two players with genuine pace, flair and skill in Lowe and Curtis. We may be using an outdated tactical approach but it ‘s clear, so far, that it’s working at this level. 

Let’s hope that the Curtis injury turns out to something of nothing and he’s fit for Saturday. This bloke has become a star almost overnight. 

Talking about Saturday those of you who saw Wycombe in League Two will know that this is going to be no walk in the park. Under the odious little Ainsworth this side will play very little football but instead rely on time wasting, cheating, feigning injury, harassing officials and trying to get opposition players booked or sent off. Almost more than any other side in League One scoring the first goal and scoring that goal as early as possible is vital. 

Well here we are top of the league and I’m sure that in a modern stadium we’d be looking at a gate approaching 25,000 this weekend. We all know that that is not going to happen and that the attendance on Saturday will largely be governed by the turnout from Hi Wick-om-bee, which influences the number of tickets we can sell to home fans on the Milton End due segregation; policing inside, as opposed to outside the ground; lack of facilities etc...so my guess is around the 18,750 mark, which is a real shame. 

MC has explained the problem on several occasions but along with modern football finances/budgets it’s all a bit of a mystery to me! 

As Kev Barsdell (KB) regularly says Fratton Park is a s----ole but at least it’s our shithole!! That’s fine for the loyalists which is the vast majority of season ticket holders but no good for the part-timers, glory hunters and JCL’s. These people want a seat with a decent view and appropriate modern day facilities, so a cheap set in the corner of the Milton End or, slightly better, the wings of the North Upper is not a particularly attractive option. 

I still say that despite all the essential health and safety work/compliance with current building regulations there has been too much delay in, at least, getting in a plan and getting in some additional (temporary) seating in the corners at either end of the North Stand to bump up the overall capacity. The Eisner’s and MC have spent too much time visiting other stadiums, conducting surveys and examining differing scenarios and (dare I say it) managing match day costs...it is time for some action.

Unlike MC I’m one of the overwhelming majority who ideally wants to stay at Fratton Park. However, by the same token, I understand his view and fully recognise that improving an outdated football stadium running at 95%+ capacity is a monumental challenge when you only have a three month ‘construction window’ and, despite a background in the building industry, I’m at a loss to see how it could be done without turning regulars away or (God forbid) ground sharing, something that can only really work in London...answers on a postcard please! 

Still roll on Saturday...isn’t life wonderful when your team is winning. 

PUP

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Old Sage’s latest thoughts 

Well what can you say? 

Where or when is it going to come crashing down? 

To be honest, if we perform like we did on Saturday, then there is no reason why it should. That was as near a complete away performance as you could wish to see. 

When you go away to the team that is top of the table then you have to start by giving nothing away. This we did with a solid first half, one snap shot from the full back on the overlap was the only slight threat to our goal and McGillivray dealt very comfortably with that. Similarly we offered little threat going forward and a 0-0 draw looked the most likely outcome at half time. We would have taken that. 

In the second half things opened up a little and space began to appear in good areas for us. In Ronan Curtis we have a real gem in using that space, allied to his pace and the bit of “up and at ‘em” that he possesses he proved the difference. The first time we got into a dangerous crossing position he stood up a perfect ball for Hawkins. His header was down and on target and I think Jamal Lowe’s run across him distracted the keeper who reacted too late. Not long after it was another powerful Curtis run past 2 or 3 defenders, a ball off to Hawkins who got to the bye line and crossed it back. There was Curtis yet again on the end to nod it down for Lowe to finish off. 2-0 and that was it, job done. 

The one slight disappointment was conceding late on, the first real occasion we conceded possession cheaply, our defence was then pulled to one side and Thompson and Burgess desperate late challenges couldn’t prevent them pulling one back. That showed that Peterborough are a good side, we gave them virtually nothing and probably a good job we didn’t. 

This excellent victory was built on a rock solid defence, led by a keeper who commands his area and instills a confidence in everyone. Burgess after much criticism last week, had an excellent game as did Matt Clarke of course and we have 2 full backs who are just that. They are defenders first and foremost, although they will offer support going forward when the time is right. 

It is Curtis though who makes the difference going forward. He must be a nightmare to play against, always at you, niggling away and creating and scoring goals for fun.

 Great to see Oli Hawkins on the scoresheet, it looks as though Pitman will have to keep waiting for his chance. He also seemed to be totally committed to the cause even though he wasn’t on the pitch, racing 30 yards down the touchline to offer advice to Evans and Curtis before they took a corner. 

We know there will be bad days and defeats somewhere along the line, but at the moment would you back against us going up, or winning this damn league? Keep performing like Saturday and we won’t be far away. 

On another point thanks again to Steve Lacey and his crew for another splendid coach trip. Things did get a little lively at times, but overall everybody had a great, and long, day.

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Bring on Wycombe!

What is there to say about our 1-1 draw with Shrewsbury last Saturday? Some would argue precious little and we had to play our ‘get out of jail free’ card merely to escape with a point. That said, we maintained our unbeaten record and lie second in the table after seven games. 

After the game I heard numerous comments ranging from poor performance to atrocious to absolutely clueless. I’m not about to jump on that bandwagon but it has to be said it was very disappointing. Outright criticism is difficult to sustain because our defence, or more accurately our back four plus the keeper, once again, played exceptionally well and limited the opposition to one clear cut chance that they gobbled up with some glee. I have some sympathy with Christian Burgess because, I believe, he is a genuine clubman (an old fashioned concept, at best) and just about every time he makes a mistake it costs us a goal. Apart from that glaring error there were a number of reasons we fell well short of three points. 

·         Shrewsbury belied their position at the bottom of the table (early days) and were far better than some other sides we have faced so far like Oxford and Plymouth.

·         Despite a change of manager and large turnover of players they remain well versed in the ‘dark arts’; one way or another that’s cheating.

·         They had some in midfield who from the fifteen minute mark onwards effectively ran the game, Anthony Grant (no.42) is a journeyman player at League One level, he’s 31 years old so he has a lot of experience and, as we all know the word ’experience’ doesn’t feature very highly in Jackett’s vocabulary!

·         We missed Curtis and the lad Green really looked like someone who didn’t want to be here, but doubtless we will see.

·         The central midfield pairing of Thompson and Naylor were pretty awful which was the main reason why our back four was put under such pressure. The former possibly flattered to deceive on his debut a couple of weeks ago and the latter is yet to turn in a decent performance, possibly providing part of the answer as to why his last club (Burton A) were relegated. He is constantly off the pace, seems to be unaware of what is happening around him, his first touch is poor and all those factors combine together to his failure to gain possession and maintain possession due to misplaced passes.

·         We remain solid but, under Jackett, but tactically inept, continuing to hump the ball down the middle in the hope that Hawkins might get on the end of it. Hawkins displayed a lot of commitment but that does not make him the man of the match I’m afraid. Although I would say that when we try to play football we look very average and that might explain why he prefers the long ball game. Results are everything but it doesn’t make great entertainment.

·          Finally our luck (almost) ran out...thank goodness for the oldest looking 30 year-old in town!!

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Old Sage’s latest thoughts 

Well, I can’t really think what to make of it to be honest. 5 wins and a draw from 6 games, the type of start we have only ever had in Harry’s Championship season of 2002/03. It’s brilliant, long may it continue. 

How has it happened though? The last thing anybody would have expected is that we would be leaving our 25 goal striker on the bench, but we are, and winning. It’s almost as if we are playing without a striker, Hawkins job seems to be to just get amongst the defenders and let them know he’s there. This he is doing pretty well and that is giving Lowe and Curtis the space to play and provide our goal threat. In the second half when Pitman was on I thought we might see a bit more of the ball into feet, using Pitman’s ability to keep hold of the ball, but that wasn’t the case. As a result Pitman just played on the periphery of the game. Undoubtedly he doesn’t suit whatever style of play we are looking to use. It’s a shame that we can’t best utilise his skills, but if we keep winning games 3-0 then does it matter!!! 

Curtis and Lowe have stolen the headlines with their goals and assists, and rightly so, but it’s another player in an unfamiliar position that is also instrumental in our success so far. Evans is the sort of player that should always be in the team and he is beginning to look like a player who can play in the middle and influence the game as well. I always thought he could and the little triangle of Evans, Curtis and Lowe is looking hot at the moment. 

Defensively we look pretty secure with the midfield two sitting a bit deeper than last season (shades of the Michael Doyle time). McGillivray commands the area far better than McGee, it’s good to have a keeper that looks confident coming to catch the ball. 

Derek Adams comments were typically bitter and comical really. Hi side were well beaten and the fact they have finished above us in 4 seasons out of 5 is pretty irrelevant. When it mattered and there was something on it, who finished higher? 

Having said that I have to say that Plymouth could easily have had a penalty in the first half just before we scored. Sometimes things go your way though. Confidence is a great thing and winning becomes a habit. You can say that we haven’t really played anyone yet, but all teams have to be beaten and Oxford, who I suggested were the worst team I’ve seen for a long time, came away from Sunderland with a draw. 

Keep going Pompey, and that means the Checkatrade game tomorrow. Winning games breeds confidence and leads to success.

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Please note that the views expressed in this column are my personal views not those of IOWPS



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