Points shared at Pompey

And it should have been all 3!

For me that was the most impressive performance of the season. We maybe played better football in parts against Oldham but in many ways this was the best I have seen the Saddlers in this early stage of the season.

Firstly the pressing. Especially for the first 20/25 minutes we were right on top of every single Pompey player the second they got the ball. Tactically it worked very well. Through the middle, Edwards, Chambers and Morris were straight on to any short passes and making sure the blue shirts felt contact every time they received a pass, Chambers with a crunching challenge early doors earning him a deserved yellow card. Even when Pompey played it out wide Leahy and Devlin seemed to make light work of their wingers, with the back three even stepping across when needed. Even Baka was doing his bit to pressure centre-backs and goalies to hurry the play and stop Portsmouth getting into any rhythm.

However the intensity of this hard work did seem to take its toll. Towards the end of both halves we seemed revert to a much flatter line when defending, allowing their players too much time in the middle of the park- to be expected when the lads had but in so much effort. It can be annoying to hear the terms effort/energy/commitment/passion from Whitney seemingly 24/7, but there is no lack of that in the starting 11 – especially the back 5.

Image uploaded from iOS

A really sturdy performance saw us into the break at 0-0, Leahy with the best chance in the first half, heading wide from a corner, Morris also pulled a snapshot wide under pressure. All in all a very impressive first half performance.

The second half we never quite got up to that same level of intensity. That being said the back 5 looked solid, reducing Pompey to a few half chance shots from the edge of the box (not one finding the target) but that was about it. The lads deserved to take the lead when somehow Devlin and Wilson found themselves on the right hand edge of the box. The two combining neatly for Leahy to volley home Wilsons firm cross.

After that we seemed to do what we normally do and take a bit of a back seat. In fairness we didn’t drop as deep as perhaps we normally do when we take a second half lead, but all of a sudden the hard running and effort that had gone into the performance so far began to show. Pompey were finding more space in the middle and the lads took a much more no-nonsense approach rather than a high press; some stern challenges landing a few of the lads in the book and riling the whiney little Pompey fans up into a frenzy…

Then the defining moment of the game. Some nice dribbling from Ozzy drew the defenders towards him before he turning round and slipping the pass of the millennium (maybe a hyperbole) through to Baka. The young striker first tried to slide it into the bottom corner to be foiled by the goalkeepers outstretched leg only to collect his own rebound and place it against the defender. A chance that would have been gleefully put away by Jackson or even Matty Fryatt…

Sure enough the footballing Gods decided to punish us for our wastefulness. 5 minutes later the referee (who in the second half had given EVERYTHING to Pompey) awarded them a penalty. I had a perfect view of it from my seat and I was absolutely furious it had been given. To me it looked like the striker had tried to play the ball with his left, tripped himself and tumbled over Gillespie. The goalkeeper collecting the loose ball (which he had played) only for the referee to blow up for a penalty. The highlights I have watched to make it look more like a penalty…perhaps due to the camera angle. I am also hearing that Leahy said the player spoke to him in the tunnel after who the admitted it was not a penalty? Comment with details if you know; Either way, if Gillespie had committed to his decision to leave his goal-line I think we would not have the need to debate this…

After the penalty was driven home I genuinely was anticipating us to crumble. The Pompey fans (finally) became audible and it looked like the tide was in their favour. But still we reduced them to basically half chances. For me the best chance to win the game actually fell to Leahy again. Annoyingly all highlite packages seem to have excluded the clip (maybe it wasn’t so close after all?) but in the dying seconds, Ozzy dragged their entire defense to the right hand side and then spread the play to Leahy. Admittedly I was quite far back but it appeared he was only 15/16 yards out on his favoured left foot- he decided to play a first time cross to Jackson which he miscalculates drastically, when it looked to me he had more than enough time to control and shoot.

Anyway, a top away performance from the boys. A very decent start to the season considering the doom and gloom that has been hanging over us. No rest for the wicked though. A tough game when the Bantams come to town Saturday; if we can come away with another point, or even three, maybe we can start recalibrating our season predictions…COYR

 

p.s we found a horse…

Image uploaded from iOS (1)

 

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